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AAA: Safety tech designed to prevent accidents is ineffectual

When American worker fatality statistics were released earlier this year, a disturbing trend was clearly established. Though a great many workplace injuries occur on jobsites, a startling number of workplace fatalities occur in transportation-related offsite accidents. The trucking industry regularly experiences worker injuries and fatalities on the road, but nearly every other major industry is increasingly suffering transportation-related worker injuries and fatalities as well.

In an effort to reduce the number of accidents that occur on the nation’s highways, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been working with automakers to create voluntary electronic media standards for technology installed in new vehicle models. The hope is that by installing voice activated technologies that drivers will keep their hands, eyes and minds on the task of driving rather than on electronic devices.

However, workers and everyday motorists alike may be lulled into a false sense of security by relying on voice-activated technologies. According to a recent study conducted by motor group AAA, hands-free technology is no safer for workers and motorists generally than portable, hands-on electronic technology is when it comes to preventing deadly, distraction-related accidents.

Whether workers are risking accidents while hauling freight or driving to a meeting across town, they deserve to be as protected from harm offsite as they are onsite. As a result, it is critical that federal regulators, automakers and electronics manufacturers determine the safest ways for workers and motorists to navigate and communicate and respond to this determination accordingly. Placing workers at unnecessary risks by concluding too soon that hands-free technology is the way to go is unacceptable if safety data does not actually support this approach.

Source: Star Tribune, “AAA study finds hands-free technology is not safer,” Tim Harlow, June 12, 2013

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