Most people know that it's dangerous to text and drive, but there's another fact that most people probably don't know: vehicle crashes are the leading cause, year after year, of worker fatalities. Texting while driving - the latest, most dangerous form of distracted driving - is a fast-growing hazard that endangers everyone. The human toll is tragic. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) reports that in 2009 more than 5,400 people died in crashes linked to distraction and hundreds of thousands more were injured. With the explosive growth of cell phones and texting technology, the numbers will only get worse - unless we do something about it.
Employers have a special role to play in this effort because of their legal obligation under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) to protect workers' safety. OSHA started by reaching out to employers to remind them that their obligation applies to all of their employees, including the millions of people who do their work behind the wheel of a vehicle.
Companies are in violation of the OSH Act if, by policy or practice, they require texting while driving, create incentives that encourage or condone it, or structure work so that texting is a practical necessity for workers to carry out their job. On OSHA's distracted driving webpage you'll find a letter to employers and a video in which David Michaels, the Assistant Secretary of Labor who heads OSHA, lays out the safety challenge posed by texting and driving and employers' roles in addressing this challenge. Also available on the webpage is a Distracted Driving: No Texting brochure which explains to employers and supervisors the importance of never requiring texting by their workers while driving.
President Obama took the first step in 2009 with an Executive Order banning texting for all Federal employees. Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia have already passed measures to make their roadways safe from this hazard and OSHA, DOT and other agencies and organizations have given this issue high priority. The Nevada legislature passed Senate Bill (SB) 140 that prohibits all drivers from texting or using a hand-held cell phone while driving. Beginning October 1, 2011, a warning will be issued to violators of the new law. Full enforcement of the law will begin January 1, 2012.
Texting while driving is a big and growing hazard and it will take a strong, concerted effort to bring this problem under control. Nevada SCATS urges our members, associates and allies to join in this effort. Together we can help reduce the great danger posed by drivers who send, receive and read text messages while behind the wheel of their vehicle.
For more information or for a schedule of Defensive Driving courses offered at no charge by SCATS, call toll free 1.877.4SAFENV [1-(877)-472-3368], or visit, www.4safenv.state.nv.us.
*The SCATS eBlast is provided as a public service by the Safety Consultation and Training Section (SCATS) of Nevada's Division of Industrial Relations. It does not impose any new compliance requirements or carry the force of legal opinion. The information contained in the newsletter is not a substitute for the safety and health standards for General Industry (29 CFR Part 1910), or Construction (29 CFR Part 1926), nor is it a substitute for Nevada Revised Statutes, and/or the Nevada Administrative Code.