NTSB: Add Distracted Driving to the OSHA General Duty Clause

Friday, March 20, 2020 By Jasmin Sharp

 

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently released their initial findings report on the March 23, 2018, crash of a Tesla Model X in Mountain View, California. The NTSB concluded that the crash, which was fatal for the driver, was caused by distracted driving. Several other factors were cited, including the damaged crash attenuator that the vehicle hit, but the main factor was the driver was playing a game on his mobile phone while allowing the Model X’s autopilot feature to steer the vehicle. 

This type of crash is, unfortunately, too common: the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that over 3,000 people are killed every year from distracted driving. Despite these statistics, only 20 states have implemented hands-free laws that prohibit handheld phone use while driving. 

Even when the law allows it, companies should not be allowing any sort of handheld phone use while driving. Three of the main factors investigators said led to the Tesla crash were the lack of a company policy on cell phone use while driving, the driver’s distraction, and the damaged crash attenuator that the vehicle ran into when the car veered off the road. All three of the factors were completely preventable, and two of them could have been directly eliminated by the driver’s company. In the crash, the individual was driving to work in a company vehicle with a company phone. The company he worked for did not have a distracted driving policy. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), every company should have a cell phone policy that demands safe driving behaviors for all work travel, especially when a company vehicle or device is involved.

As a result of the negligence of both the driver and the company in this crash, the NTSB has made the recommendation to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) that distracted driving be covered under OSHA’s General Duty Clause. This clause requires that each employer furnish to each of its employees a workplace that is free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm. By adding distracted driving to the list of hazards covered under the General Duty clause, employers would be expected to maintain a workplace that significantly reduces or eliminates the risk of distracted driving within their fleet. 

The NTSB hearing and subsequent report suggest that one way to limit distractions while driving for fleets is to use countermeasures, like limiting distracting features or locking out smartphones entirely. There are many ways to do this, such as requiring employees to use Do Not Disturb mode or sign a handsfree policy that says they will not use their phone while driving. However, these options all require the drivers to use their own willpower to not pick up the phone or enable Do Not Disturb. 

To truly solve the problem of distracted driving for fleets, companies need to use technology that allows them to balance safety and productivity. Considering many fleets use phones as business tools, with apps that route drivers where they need to go, telematics apps that track vehicle health, and ELD apps to adhere to FMCSA regulations, simply eliminating a phone is not an option. The best solution is NOCELL: A distracted driving solution that allows fleet managers to choose the apps they want to whitelist and customize their policy, while at the same time removing distractions. By implementing this technology, companies will have the best chance at protecting their drivers, assets, and the public.

Want to demo NOCELL in your fleet? Email sales@nocell.com to get started today.