Ninety-seven percent of those surveyed in a recent New York Times/CBS News poll support the prohibition of texting while driving (TWD), with 50 percent stating that punishment for TWD should be as severe as for drunken driving. The poll also revealed widespread support – 80 percent – for banning use of hand-held cell phones while driving. This is up from from 69 percent in a 2001 poll. However, seventy percent thought that the use a hands-free phone while driving is not a problem, a view unchanged from a 2001 poll.
The use of hands-free devices while driving may not be as free from risk as people think. Recent research points to the fact that even hands-free devices pose a dangerous distraction. A Carnegie Mellon study show that just listening to cell phones can impair drivers by reducing the amount of brain activity associated with driving by as much as by 37 percent. “Subjects who were listening committed more lane maintenance errors, such as hitting a simulated guardrail, and deviating from the middle of the lane. Both kinds of influences decrease the brain’s capacity to drive well, and that decrease can be costly when the margin for error is small.”
In the interest of both employee safety and for protection against liability, employers should have policies covering cell phone usage and texting while driving on company time. A new survey of more than 2,000 employers conducted by the National Safety Council found that 58 percent had some type of cell phone usage policy in place, and roughly one-quarter of those surveyed prohibit both hand-held and hands-free devices while driving for some or all employees.
A potential decrease in productivity was one barrier cited by employers that did not yet have any cell phone usage policies in place. Yet only 1 percent of the employers that prohibit hand-held and hands-free devices reported a decrease in productivity. A second barrier cited was concern that employees would not accept a ban, but NSC cites a 2008 AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey that found that 83% of drivers rated drivers using cell phones as a serious to extremely serious threat to safety.
Cell Phone Driving Laws by state – this chart is maintained by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, and includes laws related to cellphones and texting.
Texting while driving simulator – have your employees play this game to see how they fare.
The National Safety Council offers a free Cell Phone Policy Kit for employers.According to NSC, the kit includes:
- ready-to-use sample policies
- a presentation and written executive summary for senior management
- a variety of policy roll-out communications for employees, including presentation talking points, posters, voice mail greetings, FAQs, and newsletter articles
- a 1-hour course with instructor and participant guides and PowerPoint presentation