Good weather and light traffic might seem like all you need for a smooth drive, but the reality is that distractions are everywhere – even in seemingly perfect driving conditions.
Distractions can be visual (taking your eyes off the road), manual (taking your hands off the wheel), or cognitive (taking your mind off driving). According to the Texas Department of Transportation, distracted driving caused approximately one in five crashes on Texas roads, accounting for 364 fatalities and 2,200 serious injuries during 2020.
Manage with risk mitigation in mind
If you’re a school administrator or manager, there are steps you can take to increase safe driving practices and avoid incidents caused by distracted driving or other causes.
- Develop a local policy if you don’t have one to promote sound driving practices for all authorized drivers. We can help with a sample policy and guidance. Contact us for more information.
- Ensure all levels of supervisors are trained on policies and expectations to promote consistent practices throughout your departments.
- Tailor driver training programs to specific vehicles, equipment, and risks for each employee. The training content should be a combination of lecture, on-the-job, operator observation, and skills tests.
- If you are a manager at any level, review loss data regularly to identify successes or pitfalls in risk prevention programs. Reach out to us if you need help obtaining, analyzing, or using your loss data.
While you can’t eliminate distractions, there are steps you can take to ensure that drivers at your schools are ready to tackle them.
1. Clear your mind
We know how busy your schedules are. You likely have meetings, videoconference calls, and other obligations right before you need to be on the road.
“If you’re coming out of a Zoom meeting and go straight to driving, your mind hasn’t had time to adapt to an environment with risk,” said TASB Risk Solutions Consultant Charles Hueter.
According to Insurance Business America, daydreaming or being lost in thought accounted for 61 percent of distracted driving fatalities over a five-year period. Before you get behind the wheel, make sure your mind is clear and ready to focus on the task at hand.
Some ideas to get ready for the drive include:
- Hydrate. Especially in the Texas heat, it is important to stay hydrated to help you stay alert and manage your daily tasks. Eight ounces of water might be just enough to bring down your body temperature and bring calmness to the mind.
- Get some steps in. Sometimes, taking a quick walk around the building is all you need to gain the focus you need to drive. According to Psychology Today, walking can improve your concentration and energy level, improve your mood, and reduce your anxiety.
- Get plenty of rest and take work breaks. Driver fatigue can have the same impact as driving under the influence of alcohol, causing distraction and poor judgment.
2. Observe your surroundings
Whether you and your employees are driving a school bus, a sedan, truck, or SUV, it is key to focus on your surroundings as you drive:
- Avoid multitasking. Studies show that the human brain cannot multitask. As a school employee, you juggle many responsibilities, but it is important to try to focus on one task at a time as much as possible while driving.
- Monitor weather conditions before and while driving. Look up the weather forecast before you go, and be ready for the unexpected. You can check road conditions on drivetexas.org.
- Use caution when coming to a stop. Especially when using a stop arm and in a school zone, you will have students crossing the street and many other vehicles rushing to their destination. Make sure you come to a complete stop and have a full picture of your surroundings.
3. Manage distractions in the vehicle
While focusing on what is in front of and around you, you have several potential distractions in the vehicle as well, including:
- Keep your hands on the wheel. Ideally, bus drivers should have wireless headsets to connect to the radio. If you can’t go wireless, make sure radio equipment is mounted within easy reach while driving if it is necessary to take the radio call. You should also avoid doing other tasks that take your hands off the wheel, like eating, putting on makeup, or reaching for an item on the floorboard.
- Put the cell phone down. Driving while texting, which involves all three types of distractions, is illegal in Texas. According to the National Safety Council, drivers using handheld or hands-free phones only see about 50 percent of what’s around them.
- Don’t let passenger behavior derail your driving. Passengers, including students, can inadvertently distract you as a driver. While it can be easy to get frazzled, it is important to stay calm and not let it impact your driving abilities.
Follow local guidelines and policies
Your cities and organizations likely have driver policies and regulations you should follow. Make sure employees are familiar with your organizational policies. It is also important that you and your drivers are trained properly on the vehicles you operate, such as trailers, buses, and trucks.
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How the Fund can help
Our risk solutions consultants offer expert guidance on vehicle safety and how to manage other risks within your organization.