Road traffic accidents ranging from minor fender benders through to catastrophic collisions resulting in serious injury or death are a daily occurrence on Britain’s roads.
Recent statistics estimate that approximately one in three road traffic accidents involve persons who were on the road due to their employment obligations. An employee could be on the road to call on clients, travelling between business sites or working at a client’s premises.
Employers have a direct role to play in the safety of their drivers and other road users by developing and enforcing clear policies related to the use of company vehicles and driving for work.
In this article, we will sketch out a framework for how an employer can discharge this obligation in respect of their employees and other road users. We will consider how to approach the drafting of a comprehensive safe driving policy for employees and give some guidance as to how this could benefit not only the individual road user but your business too.
What is a safe driving policy and why does my business need one?
A policy is, in its most basic sense, a set of ideas or a plan of what to do in a particular situation. All employers are familiar with the basic set of policies that operate within a workplace. These include policies relating to misconduct at work, harassment, health and safety or handling of confidential client information. As a matter of best practice and good governance these policies should be:
- In writing;
- Clear and unambiguous in their terms;
- Easily accessible to all employees;
- Properly enforced by the employer.
The consequences for failing to adhere to this best practice can be dire. An employer could face tribunal claims for example by trying to discipline an employee in terms of a vaguely worded misconduct policy. In the context of employee drivers, the failure to have a proper safe driving policy in place could affect potential insurance claims.
The overarching goal of a safe driving policy is to reduce the risk of an employee being involved in an accident. A clear and unambiguous policy properly enforced by an employer returns a host of benefits to a business. What are these benefits? We’ve set out a few here:
- Reduction in the human cost of employees meeting with accidents that result in death or life changing injuries;
- Reduction in the cost of employees being unable to work because of injury;
- Reduction in insurance premiums;
- Avoidance of reputational damage due to an employee causing an accident.
The greatest benefit of all is that businesses who have adopted a safe driving policy have seen an overall reduction in accidents.
You’ve convinced me. Where do I start to develop a safe driving policy?
The starting point is to assess what type of driving your employees undertake during the course of their work. This might sound obvious but on closer examination, this can be a complex process. We must make it clear that we will be focussing on employees driving ordinary passenger vehicles and not specialist vehicles such as buses, lorries or industrial equipment.
We have broken these driving types into three broad categories:
- The travelling salesperson – calling on clients on a daily basis and travelling between appointments;
- The manager – travelling between business sites;
- The onsite worker – travelling to client sites to render services.
Each of these employees have unique obligations in their day to day work which will affect the nature of their daily driving habits.
The travelling salesperson will be under pressure to call on as many clients as possible in one day. The onsite worker may be travelling on unfamiliar roads or long distances. The manger may be required to deal with urgent work queries while travelling between business sites. The nature of the employee’s work will have a direct impact on how they drive and the level of risk they face each time they get behind the wheel.
What causes road traffic accidents?
The evidence for the causes of road traffic accidents has been abundantly clear for decades. Ask any policeman, accident dynamics specialist, lawyer or insurance assessor and they will tell you the same thing: Accidents are caused by the unholy trinity of:
Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs exponentially increases the chances of one or all of those factors coming into play and resulting in an accident. In addition, not wearing a seat belt increases risk of injury while aggressive driving could further increase the risk of an accident.
Examples of this analysis at work
The travelling salesperson may be required to meet a specified number of clients per day. If this target is too onerous he or she may be tempted to speed between his appointments which increases his risk of meeting with an accident.
The manager may be fielding calls while she travels between sites. Talking on a mobile phone, even with a hands-free kit, is a significant distraction as the driver’s focus is drawn to the conversation and away from the road in front of them.
The onsite worker might be fatigued by a long journey or distracted by looking at maps or other devices to help him find his way on an unfamiliar route.
The ideal safe driving policy – a strategy for reducing risk
This policy should take into account the day to day reality of the employee driver while at the same time discouraging practices that could result in speeding, fatigue or distraction while at the same time promoting healthy driving habits such as considerate driving or wearing seatbelts.
Your business too would see immediate financial benefits as insurance companies pay careful attention to these matters when assessing risk and calculating premiums.
The basic framework of a safe driving policy
This type of policy is the example of an overlap between two key areas of employer responsibility, namely Health and Safety and employee discipline. Unsafe driving practices could be a threat to the health and safety of employees whereas contravention of the policy could also be a matter of misconduct.
As stated above the policy must be in writing and clear and unambiguous in its terms. The employee driver (and the employees who manage them) must be made aware of the policy, the aspects of the policy that apply to them and the consequences for not following them properly.
The employee driver
It should go without saying that the employee must be a licensed driver! What you could consider is including obligations on the employee driver to disclose:
- Previous driving offences (“points on the license”);
- Previous disqualification from driving;
- Driving offences which occurred during working hours especially speeding fines or offences that could be considered dangerous driving such as failing to stop at a red traffic light or not wearing a seatbelt.
If your employee will be covered by the business insurance policy, it is highly likely that your insurer will require this information from you.
Safe driving best practice
You would need to set out a clear set of guidelines as to what these best practices might be. We have set out some ideas using the three major causes of accidents namely speeding, fatigue and distraction.
Policies to reduce speed
- A limit on the number of miles an employee may travel per day;
- Proper management of the employee’s diary to ensure that they are not tempted to speed between meetings;
Policies to reduce fatigue
- A limit on the number of miles an employee may travel per day;
- In the case of long journeys, a direction that rest stops must be taken at specific intervals.
Policies to reduce distraction
- Mobile phones must be switched off while driving, alternatively;
- All employee drivers must have functioning hands-free kits installed in their vehicles and should pull over to take calls.
The employer’s responsibility
There must be a commitment from the employer to monitor compliance and if necessary, enforce the policy using your disciplinary procedure. A regular documented review of employee driving practices will demonstrate to the authorities and your insurer that the safe driving policy is being given effect to and should be made an integral part of your business’s overall compliance processes.
A safe driving policy is good for business and good for your employees
We hope to have shed some light on the importance of businesses whose employees drive for work having clear, enforceable policies in place to encourage safe driving practices. Of course, every business is unique and we have endeavoured to sketch out the key points which employers should consider when setting up or reviewing their existing safe driving policies.
This article is provided by Burlingtons for general information only. It is not intended to be and cannot be relied upon as legal advice or otherwise. If you would like to discuss any of the matters covered in this article, please contact Richard Berry or write to us using the contact form below.