Every so often, statistics pop up that seem totally counterintuitive. The latest analysis by AA Drivetech provides some real double take moments, and given employers real pause for thought. It has prompted debate around the issue of where employer responsibility to employees begins and ends
Whilst many jobs, including driving jobs, have built in risk, it sobering to realise just how risky the act of driving to those jobs can be. AA Drivetech discovered that more drivers, cyclists and riders have been killed whilst commuting to their jobs than are killed when driving as part of their job. Their report also identifies times at which commuting deaths peak, and urges employers to consider the death rates when assessing employee risks. Head of Marketing at AA DriveTech, David Richards, suggests, “This research should be a wake-up call for many organisations as it shows the commute is even more devastating, in terms of people killed, than people who drive for business.”
The findings highlight the key times of day that see the most accidents during commutes. Three distinct commuting periods emerged, namely early morning (between 4.30 and 7am), the normal ‘morning’ commuting period (between 7 and 9am) and the evening (between 4pm and 6.30pm). Analysis confirmed that crash victims who identify as ‘commuters’ tended to be involved in morning commuting, although overall crash figures of all types of victim were higher in the evening. Early morning accidents mostly involved bends, rural roads and very fast roads. ‘Morning’ commutes saw more accidents at T junctions and urban streets, whilst evening crashes recorded the highest number of crashes within 30mph zones.
During 2009-2014, an average of 110 commuting drivers, riders and cyclists died, compared with 87 who died on the roads whilst at work. It was only in 2012 that more ‘at work’ drivers killed than commuters (87 vs 85).
Duty of Care
The statistic open up an interesting debate about what employers can do to improve the safety of their workforce during their daily commute. Richards points out, “The commute is often overlooked by businesses as they tend to focus on supporting their legal duty of care responsibilities for their employees who drive at work.” Questions now need to be asked about that duty of care. AA Drivetech have delivered useful seminars outlining best practice for employers, focussing on workforce education to minimise the risk of accidents. The accident patterns help employers to target their most vulnerable employees. A strong focus on the issue of driver fatigue, vigilance at junctions and the danger of distraction would be appropriate. Hopefully, this targeted approach will help reduce potential staff absence due to road traffic accidents as well as educate about safe practices whilst at work. David Richards suggests that from a corporate and social responsibility standpoint, businesses need to take a more ‘holistic’ view of employee safety, which includes their journeys to and from work, adding that whilst it may not be part of a company’s legal responsibility to educate on this matter, responsible employers will want to engage in this vital health and safety issue.