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Distracted driving is a 21st Century problem. Drivers who are looking at their smartphones or distracted by other technology were involved in 10 percent of all fatal crashes and 18 percent of all injury crashes in 2013, according to the National Highway Transportation Administration. And that number is only going up as more and more younger drivers hit the road.
Because younger people grew up using mobile technology, they are more likely to be involved in crashes caused by distracted driving. Drivers aged 15 to 19 accounted for the largest percentage of people involved in crashes in the driver was distracted.
Forklifts Operators Not Immune
While the NHTA didn’t offer any statistics related to forklift crashes and distracted driving, it’s logical to assume if automobile drivers are increasingly distracted, lift truck operators are as well.
Many managers in the materials handling industry can attest to the fact that all employees, including forklift operators, are spending more time looking at their smartphones than ever. And if they happen to be driving a multi-ton vehicle hauling a sight-obstructing at the same time, it can be a recipe for disaster.
A Preventable Hazard
Distracted driving among automobile drivers and forklift operators alike has become such a problem that the National Safety Council has declared it a “public health issue that affects us all.”
The first step to resolving a problem is to recognize it. That’s why the NSC has made the month of April National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. The agency is offering free workplace posters, infographics, and social media-friendly postings to help raise awareness of the issue of distracted driving both on the roads and in the workplace.
Since smartphones have become omnipresent, businesses have been struggling with how to regulate them in the workplace. Some choose to ban them altogether, which often raises howls of protests from employees who claim they need to have constant contact with young children and relatives.
Others business put no restrictions on smartphone use, which can quickly lead to abuse. Workers who can use their phones during work hours without impunity face a slippery slope from sending texts to check on their kids to watching Netflix or playing online games when they should be working.
For forklift operators, workplace safety requires a middle ground: Smartphones should never be used while drivers are in their cabs, behind the wheel, with the motor running. Even if a workplace has a liberal smartphone policy, the inherent dangers involved with operating a forklift require strict rules regarding smartphone use by operators.