"Driven to Distraction: Humanizing the Fight Against Distracted Driving"
It is no longer a rare sight to see drivers engrossed in their phones, texting, watching movies, or even video conferencing while behind the wheel. The distractions of yesteryear, like kids fighting in the backseat, have been replaced by the lure of technology. As our world becomes increasingly driven by instant access to information and services, the unfortunate side effect has been a surge in distracted driving-related fatalities and severe injuries.
"Life is too short for us to be on autopilot; its time to put our phones down and take control"
The stark reality is that according to the CDC, 3,000+ lives are lost each year due to distracted driving. These are our family members and loved ones, and it's time we find the courage to say, "Put your phone down!" To combat this epidemic, we must understand the human element behind these distractions, and work together to create a culture that prioritizes safety on the road.
Several months ago, I had the opportunity to coach a driver struggling with the challenge of balancing his pregnant wife's frequent calls with the need to stay focused on the road. He asked me "Is there a way to ignore my wife's calls without her knowing I am ignoring her?" I could see the fear in his eyes, Knowing what he was up against and shocked at his courage to "ignore" his wife, I responded with instructions on the "do not disturb" feature on his phone. This gave his wife the impression he was out of service rather than ignoring her. This experience reminded me that sometimes, distractions aren't a result of carelessness but rather stem from circumstances beyond our control.
To help you identify the outside circumstances of distracted driving and encourage drivers to put the phone down consider these strategies:
Empathize with the person behind the distraction. By understanding the root cause of a driver's distraction, we can better guide them toward a solution. Ask "What" questions instead of "Why" questions when investigating the cause of distractions. This eliminates the perception of accusation. Encourage open and honest conversations about struggles, strengths, and life outside of work. These conversations will lead to identifying the true causes to their behavior.
Let drivers find their own solutions. Rather than dictating a solution, ask drivers how they can eliminate their distractions. This empowers them to take ownership of their actions and increases their commitment to change.
Evaluate your policies and training. Ensure your policies and procedures are clear, concise, and discourage distracted driving. Establish expectations through comprehensive onboarding and ongoing training that emphasizes the importance of safety.
Involve drivers in the conversation. Engage drivers in discussions about potential hazards and their experiences with distracted driving. These authentic conversations will foster trust, empathy, and a sense of shared responsibility for road safety.
While we may never completely eliminate distractions, implementing these strategies can help minimize their impact on our roadways. By focusing on the human aspect of distracted driving and working together to change our industry's culture, we can save lives and create a safer environment for everyone on the road.