Brake calls for zero-tolerance on at-work drink- and drug-drivers

Wednesday 14 May 2014

Brake, the road safety charity
news@brake.org.uk

Employers are being urged to implement zero-tolerance policies on at-work drink- and drug-driving by road safety charity Brake, as a Brake and Licence Bureau survey finds fewer than half (44%) would dismiss an employee for driving over the legal alcohol limit.

Published today (14 May) in a report for employers with staff who drive for work by Brake's Fleet Safety Forum, the survey reveals:

  • More than half never test employees for alcohol (55%) or drugs (57%)
  • Four in 10 (44%) would dismiss an employee found driving over the legal limit for alcohol
  • Six in 10 (62%) take disciplinary action against employees found to have any amount of alcohol or illegal drugs in their system at work, but only three in 10 (30%) would dismiss employees for this
  • Fewer than half (47%) educate drivers on the risks of drug-driving, and only slightly more (50%) educate drivers on the risks of drink-driving.

It is vital that any employer with staff who drive for work takes steps to prevent drink and drug driving. Drink-driving accounts for one in six UK road deaths [1], and even very small amounts of alcohol impair driving [2]. Research suggests almost a quarter (24%) of road deaths in the UK involve at least one illegal drug or medicine [3].

Previous Brake research has found people who drive for work are susceptible to these risks. They are more likely to admit to driving first thing after having drunk a lot of alcohol the night before, and to driving after taking illegal drugs, than drivers who do not drive for work [4].

The survey also found many employers don't have crucial practices in place to manage other fitness drive issues, like tiredness, stress and poor eyesight, which can lead to devastating and costly crashes:

  • Only four in 10 (42%) regularly review schedules and workloads to ensure drivers are not put under undue pressure that could lead to stress or tiredness
  • Only six in 10 (60%) stipulate that employees should stop and rest if they feel sleepy at the wheel
  • Only one in four (25%) require staff who drive for work to have a full eyesight test every two years.

Brake is urging all employers with staff who drive for work – whether they have a fleet of commercial vehicles, company cars, or staff driving their own vehicles on company time – to implement policies and procedures to ensure their drivers are sober, alert, not stressed or tired, and have good eyesight.

Steps such as introducing zero-tolerance policies on drink and drugs, requiring regular eye tests, and managing workloads and schedules, can help organisations prevent devastating crashes, reduce insurance and repair costs, and improve their reputation. See advice below. Employers can access more detailed advice from Brake by ordering the report and joining Brake's Fleet Safety Forum at www.brakepro.org/survey2014pt1.

Laura Woods, research and information officer at Brake, says: "It is desperately worrying that so many employers are lacking the tough approach needed to tackle drink and drug driving at work. This is highly dangerous, selfish risk-taking that should be treated as gross misconduct. People who drive for work should be clear that there is no safe amount to drink before driving – not a drop. We're appealing to all employers with staff who drive for work to ensure their drivers know the risks, know the rules, and know that breaking the rules will not be tolerated. Employers can use Brake's Fleet Safety Forum guidance to review their driving policies and practices, and ensure their drivers are always fit to drive."

Les Owen from Licence Bureau says: "Too many companies bury their head in the sand about road risk management, but this is not helping their business nor making our roads safer. This report identifies the state of companies' management of fitness to drive issues. Companies have a responsibility to manage the at-work safety of staff who drive just as much as staff performing construction, electrical, engineering or other duties, and should consider their corporate social responsibility when reading this report. If all employers acted positively, one step at a time, to implement the recommendations in this report it would make a big difference to road safety, result in fewer collisions, and benefit many businesses' bottom line. All companies can make a huge difference to safety by following these recommendations, whether they already engage with Brake or not."

Brake's advice for employers

Drink- and drug-driving are deadly risks. Any amount of alcohol or illegal drug use at work should be considered gross misconduct. This zero-tolerance policy should be supported by comprehensive alcohol and drugs education, covering such inadvertent risks as 'morning-after' drink driving, and the risks from medicines such as hayfever drugs. Workplace testing for drugs and alcohol will ensure employees are following the rules and help spot any problem drivers before they cause a crash.

Safe drivers are well-rested, alert, and stress-free. Employers should talk to their drivers about any health concerns, including stress from their work or home life, to flag up any problems that might affect their driving. It is also important to manage schedules to ensure drivers have sufficient rest time, and are not put under undue pressure that could cause stress or encourage them to take risks such as speeding.

Good eyesight is fundamental to safe driving, so employers should require drivers to have eye tests at least every two years, preferably funded by the organisation.

The Fleet Safety Forum survey report gives further guidance and best practice case studies in managing fitness to drive issues. Employers can order the report at www.brakepro.org/survey2014pt1

About the report

The survey results come from Brake and Licence Bureau's Fleet Safety Forum Survey Report Part One: Fit to Drive, released today (Wednesday 14 May 2014). 228 organisations that employ drivers responded to the survey, which was conducted online through SurveyMonkey.

Brake advises and supports companies to manage their road risk through its Fleet Safety Forum. The survey report is available for free to Fleet Safety Forum subscribers, or can be purchased for £5 by non-subscribers. Special offer: the first 25 non-subscribers to request the report through our online form will get a copy for FREE.

 

 

Brake is a national road safety charity that exists to stop the needless deaths and serious injuries that happen on roads every day, make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake promotes road safety awareness, safe and sustainable road use, and effective road safety policies. We do this through national campaignscommunity education, a Fleet Safety Forumpractitioner services, and by coordinating the UK's flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.

Brake was founded in the UK in 1995, and now has domestic operations in the UK and New Zealand, and works globally to promote action on road safety.

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

The Fleet Safety Forum is a not-for-profit service for fleet managers run by Brake. Subscribers receive: free and discounted access to Brake's professional events; free training in Brake's Pledge to stop dangerous and unnecessary driving; e-bulletins containing the latest initiatives and research in fleet and road safety from across the globe; password access to the Brake Professional website containing guidance for managers and a host of resources for drivers; and posters. Annual subscription costs £155 +VAT. Subscribe at www.brakepro.org, call +44 (0)1484 559909 or email professional@brake.org.uk.

End notes

[1] Reported road casualties in Great Britain: Estimates for accidents involving illegal alcohol levels, Department for Transport, 2013

[2] Official blame for drivers with very low blood alcohol content, University of California, 2014

[3] The incidence of drugs and alcohol in road accident fatalities, Transport Research Laboratory, 2001

[4] At-work drivers: drink and drugs, Brake and Direct Line, 2012