Keeping Workers Safe on the Road


April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

Millions of workers drive or ride in a motor vehicle as part of their jobs. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of work-related injury deaths in the United States, accounting for 23,865 deaths from 2003–2015. These deaths have an impact on workers, their families, businesses, and communities. In 2013 alone, motor vehicle crashes at work cost U.S. employers $25 billion—$65,000 per nonfatal injury and $671,000 per death.

Crash risk affects workers in all industries and occupations, whether employees drive tractor-trailers, cars, pickup trucks, or emergency vehicles and whether driving is a primary or occasional part of the job. NIOSH is the only part of the U.S. federal government whose mission encompasses prevention of work-related motor vehicle crashes and resulting injuries.

NIOSH is the only part of the U.S. federal government whose mission encompasses prevention of work-related motor vehicle crashes and resulting injuries for all worker populations. Other federal agencies have responsibilities and interest in motor vehicle safety for specific worker groups (e.g., truckers, fire fighters, law enforcement officers). The NIOSH Center for Motor Vehicle Safety’s goal is to ensure that those who work in or near vehicles come home safely at the end of their workday.

The Center recently assessed progress on its 2014–2018 strategic plan and sought public comment to guide future directions. Feedback will guide priorities through 2018 and inform the next strategic plan.

NIOSH worked with CDC to create CDC Vital Signs: Trucker Safety. With the CDC Foundation, the Center developed CDC Business Pulse: Motor Vehicle Safety at Work, an interactive resource to help employers prevent work-related crashes through information on the human and economic impact of workplace crashes. Forbes featured this resource in a February 2017 guest op-ed by NIOSH’s Dr. Stephanie Pratt.

In California, the Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), the Camarillo Police Department, CHP, local law enforcement, and community partners throughout the state are working together to make the roads safer by highlighting the dangers of being distracted while driving, especially by cell phones.

“Law enforcement would rather see everyone off their cell phones than hand out a lot of tickets,” said Rhonda Craft, director of the Office of Traffic Safety.  “Take care of calling, texting, setting your GPS and everything else before you hit the street.”

Lawmakers agree that distracted driving continues to be a growing problem among California’s motorists.  Assembly Bill 1785 went into effect on January 1, requiring all drivers in California to keep their cell phone out of their hands while operating a motor vehicle.  Under the new law, a driver may activate or deactivate a feature or function of the cell phone or wireless communication device by swiping or tapping its screen only if it is properly mounted or not being held in a driver’s hand. Specific information on the new law can be found at www.ots.ca.gov.

The Office of Traffic Safety will begin a new public awareness campaign throughout the state in April emphasizing how the new law makes virtually all hand-held cell phone activity illegal – talking, texting, and using apps The campaign aims to end distracted driving through education and raise awareness about the associated dangers.

The goal is to change motorist behaviors and save lives, not just in the month of April but year-round.