According to the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety, both on- and off-the-job motor vehicle crashes cost employers $60 billion annually from 1998 through 2000. The problem is so widespread, that in a recent study, the National Council on Compensation Insurance Inc (NCCI) noted that traffic accidents are the leading cause of accidental deaths in the United States. The study also said that workers' compensation claims resulting from motor vehicle accidents are more severe than the average claim. Although they make up approximately 2 percent of all claims, they account for more than 5.5 percent of all losses because they cover a disproportionate share of the most severe claim types.
While workers' compensation claims from motor vehicle accidents are growing, their frequency is declining but at a slower pace than for workers' compensation claims in general. There are some other important characteristics about these claims that the NCCI noted in its study:
• They almost always involve time lost from work.
• Neck injuries are the most frequent diagnoses in these claims.
• The average duration for a motor vehicle claim is 70 percent longer than for other types of claims.
• They are three times as likely to involve a claimant attorney as compared to other types of claims.
The leading cause of these claims is a traffic accident that happened because the driver became distracted. The study revealed that almost 80 percent of the crashes and 65 percent of the near crashes resulted from the driver becoming distracted within three seconds of the event. The chief causes of the distraction were drowsiness and cell phone use.
The researchers had some specific suggestions regarding the steps employers can take to reduce the frequency and severity of these claims:
• Encourage your employees to use seat belts - Failure to use seat belts cost employers roughly $2.1 billion yearly from work-related crashes between 1998-2000.
• Be sure your employees never drive under the influence of alcohol - During 1998-2000, work-related crashes that resulted from drivers being intoxicated cost employers $3.1 billion annually.
• Encourage employees to take defensive driving courses - These courses teach drivers how to react during an emergency so as to lessen the severity of the accident or avoid it all together.
• Provide internal driver's education courses - Teach employees good driving practices like pre-planning the trip route, realistically estimating how long the trip will take, being sure the vehicle is in good condition before hitting the road, and informing colleagues about travel plans.