I was on my way back from lunch today and sitting at a red light when I heard brakes screeching to my left. In an instant, a car had skidded past a red light and slammed into a vehicle who was crossing through the intersection. Clearly, the driver at fault had completely missed the light turning and failed to notice everyone stopping around them. Why? Chances are, the cell phone she was holding up to her head probably had something to do with it.
Mobile devices have quickly become a focal point in our daily lives. They are undoubtedly an essential tool for your business and help your operations stay connected. But where do you draw the line regarding usage while driving?
Some cities and states have made it illegal to text while driving or use a phone without a handsfree device. Even if your drivers aren’t breaking the law in your part of the world, should you have a policy that restricts what they can do behind the wheel? We have talked before about how vehicles, drivers, and proper maintenance can affect your company brand. What does it say if a customer (or potential customer) sees one of your drivers staring at a phone or holding one up to his/her ear while navigating traffic?
Just to give you an idea of how impaired using a cell phone while driving can make you, here is an experiment by the Mythbusters that might be a bit eye opening. Using two different test subjects, they were able to prove that talking on the phone impairs a driver as much or more than driving drunk. Simply put, it is difficult to concentrate at two things at the same time, especially when one of them is very sensory-heavy.
Hands free systems, which now integrate with many vehicles, are seen as a safer alternative. Obviously, having an extra hand for vehicle operation is an improvement, but several studies still argue that the cognitive distraction still very much lessens driver awareness. Similarly, AAA President Robert L. Darbelnet released a statement back in June warning that the proliferation of hands-free systems that allow for texting, tweeting and app use while driving could lead to a hightened safety concern.
If you own or operate a fleet, you already know that accidents are a big liability to your organization. The money, downtime, and potential harm to your employees that a wreck can cost affects more than just your bottom line. At the same time, however, you need to be able to communicate effectively with your team throughout the day. So how do you find the happy medium between connectivity and driver safety?
First off, it would be wise to have a cell phone usage policy for your fleet. If you have an understanding of when and when it is not appropriate for an employee to be using their mobile device, you have a better chance at cracking down on bad behavior. If you want to absolutely prevent them from texting or talking on the phone while driving, then there are jammers available or you can cross reference GPS/Tracking data and their cell phone record. If your employees must make a call or send a text from the road, encourage them to only do this while the vehicle is parked and they are not endangering anyone around them.