Focus
July 18, 2019

Summer driving is extra dangerous for Colorado workers: Here’s how to help

Most people assume that snowy conditions make winter the most dangerous time to drive. But surprisingly, the danger is actually highest in the summer, when Colorado traffic is made worse by high temperatures, vacation season, new drivers and a proliferation of construction zones.

Amid these challenges, on-the-job motor vehicle accidents surge, with the largest spike taking place between July and September, according to a study by Pinnacol Assurance. Weekdays between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. regular working hours for most Colorado workers is when most accidents take place.

Here’s why Colorado drivers are more likely to have accidents in the summer and what you as an employer can do to help.

Nicer weather attracts more people to the roads

When the weather is cold and snowy, people are more likely to stay inside and keep warm. Beautiful summer weather, on the other hand, attracts a sea of cyclists, pedestrians and motorbikes to the roads.

Interestingly, ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft also contribute to more congestion, particularly in downtown areas. People now commonly use ride-sharing apps instead of walking or taking the bus, for instance. And as residents and visitors use these services more, the number of cars on the road will only increase.

Colorado traffic is also affected by the state’s recent population growth as well as the influx of summer vacationers. This means more traffic overall, which makes the summer a riskier time of year for drivers in comparison to just a few years ago.

So what can on-the-job drivers do to be safer? Advise your employees to acknowledge that their trips will take longer during the summer, when congestion is worse, and to plan for that. Budgeting extra time is a great way to keep frustration levels down and safety up.

Summer brings more construction zones

Nicer weather also means that drivers will encounter more construction zones during the summer. Detours and closed traffic lanes may throw off unsuspecting drivers. So ensure that your employees check a map app before setting out, to see if an alternate route is needed.

Teenagers are getting their licenses

Summer is the most popular time of year for teens to get their driver’s licenses. Plus, they spend 44 percent more time driving in the summer than at any other time of year. Since teens, as new drivers, are less skilled than others on the road, your drivers should be extra cautious and watch for unexpected stops and turns and cars running red lights.

Vacationers aren’t used to Colorado roads

Many people who vacation in Colorado aren’t used to the driving conditions that make Colorado unique. For instance, the speed limit for many Colorado roads is 75 mph and people from some states aren’t used to that speed. Drivers may also unexpectedly encounter roads without guardrails, which can be intimidating for those unfamiliar with Colorado’s mountains. For this reason, veteran Colorado drivers should focus on defensive driving and keep distractions at bay, as they need to be prepared for vacationers who are navigating Colorado roads for the first time.

Pedestrian deaths are higher in Colorado

Another danger unique to Colorado is pedestrian deaths. A recent study by the Governors Highway Safety Association found not only that American drivers killed 35 percent more pedestrians in 2018 compared to a decade earlier but also that Colorado drivers killed 75 percent more. Part of the cause of pedestrian accidents is distracted driving.

Given that more pedestrians are outside during the summer, be sure to remind your drivers to take care when approaching bike lanes, crosswalks and narrower roads. To be extra cautious, they should also always stop for pedestrians even for those who aren’t in a designated crosswalk.

Hot weather itself causes driving issues

Hot summer weather makes mechanical issues more likely too. For example, your team’s vehicles might overheat or have tire blowouts on the highway. The battery, oil and coolants might also be affected by the heat. To avoid any issues, it’s prudent to get your company cars inspected when the weather heats up.

The hotter it gets, the more likely drivers are to get distracted and make driving errors. Encourage your drivers to drink plenty of water so they don’t get dehydrated, which can lead to further distraction and fatigue.

How employers can help keep drivers safe

There’s a lot you can do to keep your drivers safe, from providing helpful tips to laying down the law. To minimize your risk, adopt one or more of the following practices:

  • Ensure your vehicles are in the best condition possible, since cars are more likely to have issues during the summer. This includes keeping an emergency roadside kit in each car.
  • Require your employees to get safe driving training in preparation for the summer months. This training should also include how to react when another driver has road rage. Check out JJ Keller training or contact your local highway patrol or sheriff’s department who often have training available.
  • Create a document that highlights the unique risks that Colorado drivers face during the summer, and make it available to all your drivers. Include tips on how your drivers can be safer, based on the examples shared above, and remind employees that Colorado drivers are more likely to ignore traffic laws.
  • Emphasize that distracted driving, such as texting, will not be tolerated. A zero-tolerance policy can help deter dangerous behavior. Determine the consequences of such behavior in advance so that when an employee is ticketed on the job for distracted driving, you have a clear protocol to follow. But don’t forget that texts or emails from employers can contribute to the problem. Make sure employees know that they’re not expected to respond right away when they’re on the road.
  • Make sure that employees get adequate sleep and aren’t driving after a long shift. Motor vehicle accidents make up 40 percent of workplace fatalities in Colorado, so explain to employees that their safety takes precedence. One tool that can help is the Alert Meter by Predictive Safety, which can be used to test if an employee is alert enough to drive. Contact Pinnacol’s safety associates for more details.

Donna Frost, a senior safety consultant, wants employers to remember two key safety points. “First, always remember, speed kills,” she said. “And second, employees can only control their vehicle and themselves. So help them be fully prepared before they get on the road.”

Pinnacol safety consultants can recommend resources to keep employees safe on the road, including driver performance management technology. Contact your safety consultant or safetyoncall@pinnacol.com for help discovering your options.

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