Fermilab Today Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Improving traffic safety: no on-site cell phone use while driving, online safety training

In 2008, a driver distracted by a cell phone crashed into the safety barriers of the guard house at the Wilson Street gate.

In the last five years, Fermilab security responded on average to 48 accidents per year on the Fermilab site. While there were no fatalities, records show several near misses: a driver speeding and rolling the car; a driver running a stop sign and hitting another vehicle; a driver talking on a cell phone and crashing into a guard house.

"The biggest hazard for most of us who work at Fermilab is getting seriously hurt in a traffic accident," said Fermilab director Pier Oddone. "That's why I want to make traffic safety a top priority."

Beginning today, Fermilab is taking the following steps to improve traffic safety on site:

  • Fermilab will no longer permit drivers to use cell phones, including hands-free devices, while driving on site.
  • Repeated traffic violations will result in week-long suspensions without pay. Non-lab personnel can be banned from site.
  • All employees and users are required to take the online training course titled Traffic Safety Awareness, which now becomes part of the ITNA training requirements for employees and users.

The ban of cell phone use while driving on the Fermilab site goes beyond the restrictions put in place by the Illinois Rules of the Road on Jan. 1. Illinois now prohibits drivers from texting while driving. However, studies listed by the National Safety Council show that any use of cell phones, even hands-free devices, is the most significant distraction that affects driving performance.

Fermilab will adopt a stricter standard than the state of Illinois, banning any cell phone use by drivers on site. For the first 30 days the new rule is in place at Fermilab, drivers will receive verbal warnings for cell phone use while driving. After this period, drivers will receive citations.

Receiving too many citations will have bigger consequences than in the past. Fermilab's new regulations call for suspending repeat traffic offenders without pay:

  • Moving Violations: Upon receiving three citations within any 180-day period, a final written warning will be issued and the employee will be required to take five days suspension without pay. Non-lab personnel can be banned from site.
  • Parking Violations: Upon receiving four citations within any 90-day period, a final written warning will be issued and the employee will be required to take five days suspension without pay. Non-lab personnel can be banned from site.

Warning letters will be given to employees who are within one citation of receiving suspensions. The Fermilab regulations (FESHM 9010 Traffic Safety) outline the detailed process and allow for appeals.

Since 2008, Fermilab security has maintained an online archive of all traffic accidents on site. Accidents due to distracted driving have become a concern. The archive also reveals another troublesome trend that the Traffic Safety Awareness course addresses: Drivers backing into cars, buildings and other objects account for more than one third of all accidents.

Computer users on site can access the traffic accident archive and its map of accident locations here.

You can submit safety concerns and suggestions through the following ES&H Web site.

-- Kurt Riesselmann

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