August 8, 2003

Driver distractions need to be addressed say safety engineers

Des Plaines, Illinois – To reduce accidents and fatalities on the roadways and to guard against distracted drivers, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) is recommending companies develop or upgrade their employee driving guidelines, and, that American states improve driver education information.

The ASSE recommends that state driver education information include training focused on eliminating and minimizing driver distractions and to show the extreme negative impact a slight distraction can have when an accident occurs, such as a death or sustaining a lifelong injury from brain damage. As in years past, transportation incidents are the number one cause of on-the-job deaths.

“Drivers don’t control weather or road conditions or for that matter the behaviour of other drivers,” ASSE President James ‘Skipper’ Kendrick, CSP, said. “But what they can do is to take more responsibility for their own safety by utilizing safe driving techniques and being cognizant of the many driving hazards on the roads today. Last year 42,815 people died from traffic crashes. Many of these tragedies might have been prevented through elimination of distractions.”

The ASSE position statement titled “The Use of Electronic Devices in Motor Vehicles and Safe Driving Practices” recognizes that legislative and regulatory initiatives such as increasing seatbelt and child safety seat use have been successful in improving roadway safety on the nation’s roadways, however more needs to be done.

In addition to drivers following the rules of the road, ASSE also recommends that the private sector take more responsibility for promoting safe driving techniques which include 1) increasing public outreach to reinforce the fact that a driver’s first responsibility is the safe operation of a vehicle – this includes school based driver education, which has been drastically reduced; 2) evaluation of employers’ current practices; creation and enforcement of written guidelines addressing employee use of electronic devices while driving; 3) proactive training of employees about appropriate operation of electronic devices; 4) increased research by the automotive industry and the manufacturers of electronic and other devices that are routinely used in vehicles to improve designs and functions to eliminate driver distractions; 5) improved driver education – a significant component in securing safety on the roadways.

Founded in 1911, the American Society of Safety Engineers is the oldest global professional safety organization and has more than 30,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members who manage, supervise, research and consult on safety, health, transportation and environmental issues in all industries, government, labor and education. For more information and a copy of the position statements check ASSE’s website at

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