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ASSE Virginia Members Discuss Distracted Driving Concerns at Local Event

Posted in on Mon, Apr 9, 2012

RICHMOND, VA (April 4, 2012) – Virginia American Society of Safety Engineers’ (ASSE) members concerned about the increase in distracted driving roadway crashes have released a new  “How to Avoid Distracted Driving” tool and web site at and will be host to a meeting on the topic for their occupational safety, health and environmental professional members in conjunction with DRIVE SMART Virginia on April 16th in Richmond.

As April’s Distracted Driving Awareness month begins, ASSE members are reminding drivers that their vehicle is a machine weighing anywhere from 3,000 pounds and more which can cause major damage, especially while traveling at roadway speeds.

ASSE Colonial Virginia Chapter President Katheryn Redfern, of Glen Allen, Virginia, noted, “Research by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute showed that 80 percent of crashes studied involved driver inattention within three seconds of  the crash. Keep in mind that if your distraction event at 40 miles per hour (mph) includes text messaging or something similar, the eye can be off the road for 4.7 to 5.0 seconds, enough time to travel up to 294 feet. What’s worse is that you still haven’t started to react and begin breaking.

“You certainly don’t want to stray into another lane meeting someone else at 40 mph traveling in the opposite direction,” Redfern noted.

As part of Distracted Driving Awareness month, on Monday, April 16th, Dr. Lori Rice, of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), will discuss how to reduce distracted driving among employees at an ASSE Colonial Virginia Chapter meeting with DRIVE SMART Virginia, from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the Virginia Farm Bureau in Richmond.  Dr. Rice, an industry expert on behavioral driving issues, notes that 80 percent of all crashes and 65 percent of all near crashes are caused by distracted driving.  As transportation crashes are the number one cause of on-the-job deaths and as many employees not only commute by passenger cars to work but also drive as part of their job, this is a major work safety issue for ASSE members.

The ASSE Transportation Practice Specialty (TPS) group developed a ‘Distracted Driving Avoidance Tips’ sheet for ASSE members and the public. The TPS works daily on fleet transportation safety protecting their employees by developing and implementing driver safety programs as well as commercial vehicle safety maintenance programs.  Most work for companies that have long standing ‘driver safety’ company policies which include banning in-vehicle cell phone use and other distracted driving activities.

Statistics show that 500,000 people are injured each year and another 6,000 are killed by drivers who are distracted, particularly by their phone. Young drivers are more likely to be killed in distraction-related crashes, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). In addition, a recent Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) report found an increase in teen driver roadway crash fatalities in the first six months of 2011, illustrating a need to increase awareness about the dangers of distracted driving especially for teens.

“Life can change in a second. Consider this — you’re doing yard work one warm spring day and your, let’s say, mother decides to go to the store to get some garlic bread to go with the spaghetti being made for dinner,” ASSE President Terrie S. Norris, CSP, ARM, CSPI, said today. “While still in the yard you hear a car pulling into the driveway and think your mother has returned from shopping.  But, as you lift your head you see it’s a police car instead. The policeman slowly gets out of the car and tells you the bad news – your mother died when the driver of another car, while texting, veered into the wrong lane and slammed into her car. She died instantly, he says.

“In the span of about one hour you went from gardening, joking with your mother to being told she is dead. Then you have to tell the bad news to your family and friends. So instead of enjoying a spring spaghetti dinner that night, you and your family are planning a funeral,” Norris said. “This happens several times a day around the world and the pain of such an incident lasts forever. Roadway crashes, fatalities and injuries caused by distracted drivers must stop now.”

ASSE TPS members Earnest F. Harper, CSP, DABFE, DABFET, CFC, and Timothy C. Healey note people should realize there are clear physical dynamics involved that can be dangerous when one is operating a large machine like a car and take their eyes off the wheel, even for a few seconds.

“At 40 mph you are traveling 58.7 feet-per-second (fps) meaning that in the 2.9 seconds it takes for that eye glance, looking away from the road ahead, to reach for something you will have traveled 170 feet (58.7fps x 2.9s). At 60 mph, you are moving at 88 fps,” Harper noted.  “During that 2.9 second ‘glance’ away from what you are driving into, you have traveled over 255 feet.”

“In either case, at these common speeds, each is more than enough time to end up being several feet under that slow moving tractor-trailer rig ahead of you that you didn’t see,” Healey noted. “And in a 40 mph crash a 100 pound person or child who isn’t wearing a seat belt will hit the dash board with a force of 2.6 tons, and a 3,000 pound car crashing at 40 mph will experience a crash force of 80.28 tons reducing any chance of surviving.”

ASSE members suggest to avoid distracted driving one should: Program your device so you do not answer and notify the caller that you will be driving and are not available to respond at the moment.  In an emergency, family should know to call 911 or other family members.    If family or certain individuals urgently need to reach you, devise a procedure such as three rings, hang up, wait two minutes and call again, repeat once to allow time to pull over safely; Know your route in advance and, if using a navigation system, pre-program it; Prepare the vehicle cab and yourself for driving, including your management of any distraction, be they inside or outside of your vehicle; and, Focus on driving: Maintain safe spacing or move to a less obstructed lane.

Virginia ASSE members urge motorists to put their phone down, or simply turn it off when they’re in the car, avoid eating and other distractions, and program the GPS before you leave.

The Colonial Virginia Chapter offers localized membership services, networking and professional development opportunities through seminars, conferences, meetings and newsletters. Members are professionals from throughout Central Virginia who work in the safety field, dedicating their time and expertise to protecting fellow workers from injuries on the job. The group meets monthly in the Richmond metropolitan area, to network, learn and share experiences and best practices with others. Go to for more information.

Founded in 1911, the Des Plaines, IL-based ASSE is the oldest professional safety organization and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment. It has more than 34,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members.  For more information on distracted driving please go to, , or


Contact:  Katheryn Redfern, 804-337-8672, Sharon L W Morales,, Diane Hurns, 847-768-3413,

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