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For many employees, the most dreaded part of the workday is time spent on the road. Whether driving is a regular part of the job, or just commuting to and from work, traffic congestion and bad roads not only make driving miserable, but these factors also increase the risk of being involved in a crash.

According to the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS), traffic-related crashes are the leading cause of death among employees in the U.S. workforce. In addition to the results of human suffering, these crashes pose a huge financial burden for employers. One of the best ways to keep employees safe on the road is to educate them about safety and promote safe driving practices.

AAA Minnesota/Iowa is challenging employers across the state to help their employees apply effective strategies to their driving in support of "Drive Safely to Work Week," Oct. 4-8. Based on the factors most frequently involved in crashes in Iowa, we know that the greatest reductions in traffic injuries and deaths will come from practicing the basics. Employees are urged to:

Drive defensively and recognize hazards. Scan the road ahead and check your mirrors inside and out, every three to five seconds. Keep your attention focused on driving. Be prepared to take defensive action, and do it before the situation gets out of control. By driving defensively, you can save lives, time and money in spite of the conditions around you and the actions of others.

Add a second. Want to make your drive shorter? That's right, add a second. Adding another second between you and the car in front of you can help to avoid a crash. Maintaining a safe following distance will cost you two to four seconds, but a crash, at the very least, could cost you hours.

Buckle up. Buckling up is the single most effective step you can take to reduce your risk of serious injury or death. Take a second to click your seat belt and cut your risk in half.

Pay attention. Driving is your job when you're behind the wheel. Be alert to weather and road conditions and adjust your speed and following distance accordingly.

Discuss company business practices with your employer. If your employer is encouraging increased productivity by recommending that staff members talk on the cell phone while driving, or do other activities, then have a conversation about driving safety with them. Perhaps the practice needs to be abandoned in order to protect staff members.

Helping employees to improve their driving behaviors and make safer choices on the road will not eliminate congestion during rush hour, but it will reduce preventable crashes and their impact on the workforce.

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