BOCA RATON Florida, June 17, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) – The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked renewed interest in remote working arrangements, which could also help improve workplace and road safety, according to a study conducted by researchers at Florida Atlantic University and the University of Miami.
Gulcin Gumus, Ph.D., associate professor in the College of Business at FAU, and Michael T. French, Ph.D., professor and chair of UM’s department of health management and policy, reviewed the effect of business cycles on traffic deaths. in the United States, with a particular focus on work-related accidents. These are defined as accidents involving at least one vehicle registered with a company, business or government agency.
The study, recently published in the journal Social Sciences and Medicine, found that workplace-related road fatalities increase during strong economic times and decrease during recessions, a clear indication that fewer workers on the roads lead to better road safety.
Gumus and French estimated that a one percentage point drop in the state’s unemployment rate is linked to a 4.7% increase in work-related road fatalities. The researchers noted that the estimate of lives lost is likely conservative, given data availability and other study limitations.
The results could help convince U.S. employees and employers that a certain amount of remote working should become a permanent option. Some large organizations are already doing this. At Facebook, for example, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced he intended to spend more time working remotely and said he would allow full-time employees to do the same if their work can be done. out of office.
At the start of the pandemic last spring, state and local leaders across the country issued stay-at-home orders to curb the spread of COVID-19. This has left much of the US workforce to set up home offices and hold meetings on Zoom and other virtual platforms. Despite the occasional hassle, many workers eventually find they are more productive at home, in part because they don’t have tedious and stressful daily commutes.
Long before the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that employers adopt programs to buy safe vehicles and promote safe driving, but more needs to be done to protect lives, researchers in the new study say.
“If the pandemic leads to more remote working, we will likely see economic cycles have less impact on work-related traffic accidents in the years to come,” said Gumus, whose specialties include health economics, public health and health policy. . “This is important not only for workers and employers, but also for passers-by, who constitute the vast majority of fatalities in such crashes.”
The professors’ research covered all 50 states from 2004 to 2012, focusing on the Great Recession from 2007 to 2009. During the Great Recession, the average state unemployment rate increased by 4.24 percentage points, according to the study. The professors found that the rate of work-related fatalities declined by 20% over the seven quarters of the recession, one of the most significant unintended positive consequences of the economic downturn, the researchers concluded.
“Given the highly preventable nature of traffic accidents, this is a public health problem that can be addressed through actions taken by drivers, policymakers and employers,” the study said.
Gumus and French did not study the recession caused by the pandemic because the data is not yet complete.
“The economic collapse in 2020 and early 2021 was different from the Great Recession and will certainly reveal new information on how business cycles affect work-related road accidents,” French said.