WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Environmental Industry Associations (EIA) has produced a white paper outlining the risks of distracted driving and providing tips for waste service companies to manage driving distractions.

EIA, the national trade association representing the private sector solid waste and recycling services industry, issued its “Distracted While Driving” white paper to member wastes services companies nationwide to support the industry’s efforts to avoid driving distractions, which occur whenever drivers take their hands, eyes, ears and minds off the wheel and the road.

“Safety should be the top priority for anyone getting behind the wheel of a vehicle, and that includes the 150,000 commercial truck drivers employed by the solid wastes services industry,” said EIA President and CEO Sharon H. Kneiss. “As partners with American communities, our members must continue to emphasize safety in lockstep with high-quality service. That includes the public’s safety as well as the safety of industry drivers.”

Activities that distract drivers include reading, eating and drinking, operating navigation systems, talking with passengers or using cell phones to talk, text or surf the Web. The U.S. Department of Transportation says distracted driving contributed to 18 percent of all injury crashes in 2010, causing more than 3,000 deaths and more than 416,000 injuries.

Cell phone use while driving is of particular concern when combating distracted driving. Research cited by the white paper finds that cell phones used for texting can increase fatal crashes by 6 to 23 times, and drivers using handheld devices are four times more likely to become involved in crashes serious enough to injure themselves.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has banned the use of a handheld device while driving and has prohibited texting while driving. The white paper recommends company drivers avoid distracting activities, turn off their phones and set aside time during the day to make work-related calls or texts.

“It is important for everyone to learn and observe local and state safety laws, our drivers included,” said Kneiss. “It may be tempting to use the phone or to text while driving, but it is also easy to avoid.”

EIA Safety Director David Biderman urges all haulers and governments to participate in EIA safety programs, including Safety Monday, regional training events, the Be Safe Be Proud video series and the Slow Down to Get Around (SDTGA) program, and communicate the importance of working safely to their employees. To learn more about how you can help protect yourself and keep waste and recycling workers safe, visit here.

You may download a copy of the paper.