Technology is constantly evolving, and as it does, many people try to keep up with all the latest devices — smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, laptops and more. But as people, and workforces, become more tech-savvy and connected, it’s necessary to weigh the benefits and risks of digital integration. Workers in the general contracting industry spend much of their time behind the wheel, driving to, from and between various worksites. Many construction workers who drive rely heavily on their mobile devices to stay connected while on the move — from accessing navigation, updating project management and maintaining communication with a distributed team.
There are clear benefits to having access to a mobile device, but mobility comes at a cost without the proper oversight. Texting takes a driver’s eyes off the roadway for an average of 4.6 seconds.
When traveling at 55 mph, this equates to driving 371 feet without looking at the road — or the approximate length of a football field. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 43,000 people died on U.S. roads last year, around 3,100 of which were involved in vehicular crashes involving distracted drivers.
To make matters worse, many employers are unaware of how they are contributing to the problem. A recent survey conducted by Truce Software revealed that 72% of people who drive as part or all of their job feel pressured to respond to work communications while behind the wheel.
Now, consider how distracted driving could impact a business. This can include:
- Repairing or replacing a vehicle — Depending upon the type of insurance a company has, and if the vehicle is a total loss, there will be significant costs to make repairs or replace it.
- Missed business opportunities — Should there be a crash and vehicles are out of commission, or someone is injured, there are a few ways a company can lose business. With fewer vehicles comes limited means of sending workers out into the field. And if an employee is injured and unable to work, the entire construction workflow is disrupted, compromising the contractor’s ability to keep the job on track. Construction businesses will undoubtedly remain affected until the employee recovers, which could be weeks or months.
- Insurance premium increases — With more accidents come more rate hikes, but that’s a best-case scenario. If a company has multiple accidents, it risks insurance carriers declining continued coverage altogether.
Costs aren’t the only significant way distracted driving crashes can impact a construction business. Your company’s reputation can take a major hit. Often, vehicles in a fleet are adorned with logos.
While this is a great way to build brand awareness, companies face reputational turmoil if a branded vehicle is involved in a distracted driving crash and the driving employee is at fault. In the case of a major wreck, local news outlets are likely to report on it, and the coverage very well could spread across various social media channels. Going viral for the wrong reasons can greatly weaken a company’s reputation.
Fleeting moments of distracted driving can bring a business that has spent years building a brand to its knees.
Proactively Curbing the Risks Associated With Advanced Mobility
The safety risks that come with advanced workforce mobility are too important to ignore. While each employee should take personal responsibility to drive safely, business leaders have an important role to play in creating a safe work environment. Some managers might use different means of keeping tabs on drivers — including in-vehicle cameras to record a driver’s every move or telematics that capture detailed data on vehicle movement. The technology, while helpful, is essentially reactive: something to look at after a crash or react to behaviors after they have already posed a risk. In the case of distracted driving, there must be more than a reaction.
The best way to prevent an accident is with proactive solutions that curb distractions before they occur. A mobile device policy that sets guardrails for when and how a device can be used can help reduce risks, but equally important is a tool for enforcement. Contextual mobility management (CMM) can consider contextual and situational triggers when a driver is in motion. These include motion data, schedules, time of day and more.
CMM, depending on a company’s mobile policy, can temporarily limit access to specific types of apps, features or content that pose a distraction behind the wheel while still allowing access to critical ones. GPS apps are still accessible, for example, and if a driver receives a call notification from a manager, they can pull over and take the call. The employee has access to everything they need on their device for the task at hand and nothing they don’t.
Instilling a Culture of Safety
Managers must promote a safety culture that keeps company drivers and others on the roads safe. As many know, it can be tempting to answer a quick text message, take a brief phone call or look at the notification that just popped up on social media. CMM can decrease workplace distractions before they occur and improve worker safety, whether on-site or driving to it. Companies can enact distracted driving policies to compensate for drivers who are unwilling — or too distracted — to adhere to state road laws.
When a work notification comes through on an employee’s phone, oftentimes the worker feels inclined to treat it like any other notification and reply as soon as possible. As more employers adopt and embrace the benefits of mobility, employers must consider how their company culture impacts employee safety. Business leadership must consistently reinforce that unplugging is not only OK but it’s encouraged — and mandatory in contexts that pose safety risks.