Let's Get Behind Safer Driving

SOME weekdays I feel darn lucky to reach my office or my home unscathed. I am a good driver, far from a perfect driver, whose urban commute often puts me in close contact with motorists who drive dangerously, competitively, even angrily. These aggressors don't know the people driving around them, they just want to blow by or through them to get somewhere a few seconds faster. For all of us making these trips, the white-knuckled experience is drive time with a vengeance.

October is a good time to be thinking about safer driving. The seventh annual Drive Safely Work Week will be celebrated Oct. 6-10 by major employers, automakers, federal safety agencies, law enforcement authorities, and insurers who want us to realize two things:

  • Unsafe driving is terribly expensive in lives and dollars.
  • We can do something about it.

The non-profit Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (visit www.netsnational.org or call 703-891-6005) organized more than 3,000 organizations last year. It hopes 4,500 organizations will take part in the 2003 week. The sales pitch is compelling, because it is well known that driving is the most hazardous activity most workers perform. NETS says one in every four work-related deaths is caused by traffic-related trauma, and at least half of the congestion drivers encounter on U.S. roads is our own fault--from causes such as butting into merge lines, missing exit ramps and hitting other vehicles, and rubbernecking at accident scenes. (NETS cites the Federal Highway Administration for this statistic.)

The week is devoted to positive actions that drivers can take to ensure their own safety and the safety of others on the road: driving more carefully, sharing the road, taking better care of our vehicles, and avoiding distractions such as personal tasks and cellphone conversations.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta has rightly urged the American public to take personal responsibility for its safety on the highways. His point hits home with two other facts that should get every employer's attention: Eighty-eight percent of all employees drive to work today, and mechanical defects and worn equipment on vehicles are a factor in 12.6 percent of crashes. By federal agencies' estimate, motor vehicle crash injuries on and off the job cost employers almost $60 billion in year 2000 alone.

This article originally appeared in the October 2003 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

About the Author

Jerry Laws is Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, which is owned by 1105 Media Inc.

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