In recognition of April as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, this is an updated blog post that originally ran in April 2016.
You don’t have to drive like Mad Max to face the sad facts: in the United States alone, nearly 37,000 people on average die each year in car accidents – with more than 2.3 million others injured or disabled.
Some of those accidents – just one is too many – are caused by distracted drivers.
Tampa Electric’s Cheryl Johnson knows this; the property manager sends out monthly parking tips to TECO team members who park near TECO Plaza. In doing so, she sees a lot of grim statistics. So she came up with an idea that’s catching on with TECO team members: a multi-pronged but non-punitive pledge to focus on safety above all else as they do their part to support TECO’s dedication to serving the community with reliable electricity and natural gas.
“It’s become apparent that distracted driving is the big new accident that people are getting into because of the way cell phones and social media are so prevalent now,” Johnson said. “Safety’s the top priority at TECO, and while we build it into everything we do, we can’t control what everyone does on the road – so we need to make sure we use safe driving practices at all times.”
In time for April, National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, Johnson’s concerns – and her ideas to address them – are gaining traction across TECO. Her five-point pledge for company team members, now officially part of TECO’s Continuous Improvement program, includes:
- An agreement team members sign to reaffirm their commitment to safety while driving.
- They must review TECO’s internal driving safety guidelines.
- They watch this brief video about distracted driving.
- They submit a slogan to encourage others at TECO to focus on vehicular safety.
- Over the next three years, TECO team members agree to complete a Smith System driver improvement program course. TECO team members who work in the community already must complete the training; the pledge encourages everyone – no matter what they do at TECO – to complete the training too.
Among the first at TECO to complete the pledge was the seven-member team that helps customers save energy and money through the company’s Energy Planner program.
“Combined, this team drove a total of about 85,000 miles in the Tampa Bay area in 2015, so we absolutely see value in the pledge,” said Drema Hughes, who manages the Energy Planner program for TECO. “One member of our team was actually involved in a pretty serious accident with a distracted driver earlier this year – so we’ve experienced these dangers firsthand.”
Al Grinnell, manager of Account Management with Tampa Electric, oversees a team of 29 who perform energy-saving upgrades like the Free Home Energy Audit for customers.
“We’re exposed to many elements that require our team to have an A-game while driving; bad weather, road construction, traffic, and other drivers are just a few factors that play in to daily driving hazards,” Grinnell said. “Texting and allowing ourselves to be distracted as drivers is like an unforced error in sports; it simply shouldn’t happen.”
Johnson said the best-case scenario with the safe driving pledge is that it not only keeps TECO team members safe – it also has a positive effect on non-TECO drivers in the community.
“Driving, and all that comes with it, is a fact of life for nearly anyone in places like Florida,” she said. “At TECO, we’re doing everything we can to keep it from being a fact of death. And in the end, our best shot at staying safe on the road is for everyone to commit to staying safe together.”