Traffic safety: Simply staying aware can save lives

Vehicle safety includes awareness of one’s surroundings, following all traffic signs, not driving under the influence.Vehicle safety includes awareness of one’s surroundings, following all traffic signs, not driving under the influence.

In all but the most rural settings, traffic is part of life, but it can prove to be quite dangerous for landscapers, regardless of whether they are traveling a road or just working beside it.

In 2014, there were 1,984 fatal occupational incidents due to transportation, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

The three most commonly reported job-related vehicle deaths and injuries come from being hit by traffic when near a road, crashes that occur traveling to, from, or between jobsites, and being struck by a fellow employee driving a vehicle.

In December 2015, a 39-year-old landscaper in Annapolis, Maryland, died after a pickup truck jumped the curb and struck him, according to

To lessen the dangers when working near a road, be sure to use reflective, brightly colored vests so that you are visible to drivers. If working within 15 feet of the traveled way, a warning sign should be placed on the shoulder of the road.

Always face oncoming traffic when working so you can watch for out-of-control vehicles. Tools and equipment should be kept away from the roadside when not in use.

In Cary, North Carolina, a landscaping truck occupied by five employees veered off into the median, hit a bridge railing, burst into flames and rolled down an embankment into a creek on March 31, 2016. The 22-year-old driver is facing charges after one of the passengers was found dead on the scene, according to

Common causes for crashes include speeding, being distracted, driving under the influence, and poor vehicle maintenance.

In order to prevent these events from happening at your company, make sure employees know you’re committed to safety by having written policies and procedures on what you expect from your drivers. If these are violated, proper warnings and/or punishments should follow.

Ensure that scheduling does not tempt the driver to speed. To prevent employees from driving when tired, avoid having them driving at irregular hours such as midnight to 2 a.m. or 4-6 a.m.

Ban the use of text messaging and talking on phones while driving to prevent distracted driving. Prohibit individuals from driving when under the influence of alcohol, drugs or medications that could interfere with their ability to drive.

Regularly maintain company vehicles to ensure they are safe to drive. Drivers should be evaluated for proper behind-the-wheel skills and behaviors.

Towing a trailer increases the risks of a crash if the driver is not trained on how to properly maneuver the vehicle with a trailer attached. It is important for the driver to remain aware they are towing a trailer, as accelerating, braking and turning require more time.

If the tires are underinflated while towing a fully-loaded trailer, a blowout or possible rollover could occur.

Accidents where an employee hits another employee with a vehicle happen more than you might think. The main cause is simply a lack of awareness.

Sadly, tragic examples are not hard to find.

On May 6, 2016, a 25-year-old landscaper in Titusville, Florida, was spreading mulch when his 21-year-old coworker accidentally struck and killed him while backing up, according to

Backup alarms can be installed to warn all pedestrians in the area and a flagman should be used to help the driver navigate tight quarters safely.

An overall awareness of one’s surroundings can help landscapers ensure their safety in all three of the common incidents involving vehicles.

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