Secretary of Labor, Hilda L. Solis, announced a new partnership between OSHA and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to combat distracted driving, saying "The leading cause of worker fatalities year after year are motor vehicle crashes." Solis' remarks came in a speech to attendees of the DOT's Summit on the Prevention of Distracted Driving.
Of special concern to OSHA and the DOT is texting. According to an announcement on OSHA's website, the initiative will include:
- An education campaign for employers, to be launched during "Drive Safely Work Week" in early October, will call on employers to prevent occupationally related distracted driving, with a special focus on prohibiting texting while driving.
- An open letter to employers to be posted on OSHA's website, http://www.osha.gov during "Drive Safely Work Week." The website also will showcase model employer policies and encourage employer and labor associations to communicate OSHA's message.
- Alliances with the National Safety Council and other key organizations as outreach to employers, especially small employers, aimed at combating distracted driving and prohibit texting while driving.
- Special emphasis on reaching younger workers by coordinating with other Labor Department agencies as well as alliance partners and stakeholders.
- Investigate and issue citations and penalties where necessary to end the practice when OSHA receives a credible complaint that an employer requires texting while driving.
The DOT's website listed some interesting statistics from the NHTSA about distracted driving from 2008, including:
- In 2008, almost 20 percent of all crashes in the year involved some type of distraction. (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration - NHTSA).
- Nearly 6,000 people died in 2008 in crashes involving a distracted driver, and more than half a million were injured. (NHTSA)
- The younger, inexperienced drivers under 20 years old have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.
- Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. (Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)
- Using a cell phone use while driving, whether it’s hand-held or hands-free, delays a driver's reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent. (Source: University of Utah)