Dangerous Curves Ahead

September 30, 2020

Distracted Driving – Never a Good Call

The statistics are clear – drivers on the phone are four times more likely to experience a vehicle accident. Those who are texting or using email increase their risk by eight times.

These figures – from the National Safety Council – highlight the dangers of distracted driving. The human brain can only fully process one task at a time. If you are operating a vehicle and talking on the phone, your mind is storing and reacting to some information, but not all of it. For example, you may see a traffic light, but not notice that it is red.

If you are driving and your phone rings, safely pull over before answering the call. This simple maneuver can help keep you and other motorists safe.

FirstEnergy employees are prohibited from using a cell phone or sending/reading text messages while operating a company vehicle. For more information, review Section 118 of the FEU Accident Prevention Handbook.

It’s one of the first things an instructor tells us when we learn to drive – “keep your eyes on the road.” It seems like such a simple thing to do, yet it’s easy to get distracted when behind the wheel, whether it’s from glancing at our phones, grabbing a drink of water or dealing with other drivers.

According to FEU Safety’s Laura Redenshek, although FirstEnergy’s Key Performance Indicator (KPI) reports for the first and second quarters of 2020 were positive regarding safety, employees continue to struggle with chargeable motor vehicle accidents (CMVAs). Several of our operating companies were below threshold – or in the red – during the first two quarters of the year.

“When traveling in a vehicle, distractions are all around us,” said Laura. “Driving is an activity that has life-changing event potential. It’s important that employees do everything they can to reduce their exposure to injury by focusing on the road and not letting distractions divert their attention.”

When operating a company vehicle, employees are required to abide by all applicable sections of the FEU Accident Prevention Handbook, and state and federal traffic laws. Here are some other tips you should follow when driving:

  • Wear your seat belt. It’s the most effective way to increase your chances of surviving an accident.
  • Focus on the road. Recognize the difference between physical (taking your eyes off the road) and mental (taking your mind off driving) distractions and focus on the task at hand. And, remember that your passenger can serve as a second set of eyes.
  • Slow down. Maintain a safe following distance based on speed and road conditions and give yourself room to maneuver if the vehicle in front of you makes a sudden stop or turn.
  • Keep your distance. Leave at least three seconds of space between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you. When operating a commercial vehicle, you should leave six seconds of space.
  • Plan for your trip. Allow plenty of time to get to your destination – rushing can lead to an accident.
  • Drive defensively. Avoid accidents by anticipating hazards created by other drivers.

​Remember that backing is the number one cause of preventable accidents. When possible, identify appropriate parking locations to minimize driving in reverse and secure a safe exit. If backing is necessary, make sure you have enough room to maneuver and there are no objects in your path. Also, if there is more than one person in the vehicle – or if someone is nearby – request help when backing. (The FEU Accident Prevention Handbook requires employees to follow this safety measure.)

“When operating a vehicle, driving needs to be the primary task,” continued Laura. “Recognize that distractions – whether work-related or from home – can arise at any time and are an exposure as soon as you get behind the wheel.”

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