Our Driving Concern Sr. Program Manager Lisa Robinson speaks to issues and concerns all employers face when trying to make their workforce safe on the road:
Buckle your seat belt, wash your hands. These are examples of healthy habits that easily can be accomplished is less than one minute. You don’t think much about either one because you are in the habit of doing both.
Q: Have you thought about incorporating traffic safety into your regular workplace safety culture in a similar fashion? By making traffic safety a habit?
A: No? Why not? You can reduce risks, prevent injuries and save lives at your organization through your educational efforts. Make it a habit to talk about traffic safety. You don’t have to talk forever. Often, one or two minutes will do. Just make your efforts consistent and ongoing. Include non-verbal messaging, too. Hang posters in the breakroom and on bulletin boards. Affix window-clings in your company vehicles and place our Toilet Tabloids in your bathrooms.
How much thought process is required for you to talk on a cell phone and do another activity at the same time? Let’s find out!
In your group, assign three volunteers to do a fairly physical yet fun activity.
Have the rest of the group choose a topic for the volunteers to discuss (perhaps make a topic like “cell phone use while driving”).
Volunteers are to carry on a discussion about the chosen topic, BUT each volunteer has to pick a position (standing, sitting or leaning*) during the conversation.
The volunteers should change positions randomly and frequently while they are talking. If one person changes from standing to sitting, then the person who is sitting must quickly pick a different position, and so on.
Encourage the observers to yell out to the volunteers if they see more than one person in the same position at the same time.
Continue play for a few minutes before stopping to discuss.
*NOTE: If the teaching environment does not have a chair to sit or lean on, you may alternate with kneeling or bending instead.
Volunteers, how did you feel when doing the activity?
Was it stressful?
Did you make mistakes? Did it get confusing?
Doing another task that requires focus impacts your ability to carry on a conversation at the same time.
You can’t do two thinking activities at once and do them well. Please remember this and avoid your phones while driving!
Watch this video, and then try the exercise yourself or with a group. (You will need paper and pencil for this one, plus a stopwatch or watch with a second hand.)
Time the following with your stopwatch:
Write out the following sentence, “Switchtasking is a thief”. Then write the numbers 1 through 21 on the line beneath.
Next, time the following with your stopwatch:
Now write the same sentence and numbers on two new separate lines of the paper, but this time alternating writing one letter and one number at a time (ex: “S” with a “1” on line below, “W” with a “2” below, etc.
When you’re finished, discuss:
Did it take almost twice as much time to complete this task when you were “switchtasking”?
Did the quality decrease (sloppier handwriting, mistakes)?
Did you feel more stressed in doing the task the second time around?
How does this correspond to driving? Any activity that takes your mind off of the task of driving is a form of multitasking or switchtasking. You will be more apt to make slower choices, mistakes and have increased stress.
Earpiece, dashboard system, voice-to-text, or speaker phone.
Hands-free technology and driving: The brain quickly toggles between tasks – but can’t do two things at the same time. According to the National Safety Council, the activity in the area of the brain that processes moving images decreases by up to 1/3 when listening to talking on a phone. Drivers looking out the windshield can miss seeing up to 50% of what’s around them when talking on ANY kind of a cell phone.
Watch this quick video on hands-free technologies:
How is hands-free device operation more dangerous than just talking to a passenger? During a face-to-face conversation, you rely on many non-verbal cues to understand the other person. While talking on a cell phone, you cannot read these cues so you focus more attention on the conversation than usual. This distracts your mind from focusing on driving. Also, passengers can see your driving environment. They are aware of the situation around you and will tend to adjust the conversation to fit the risk level of driving. A passenger can even serve as an additional lookout for hazards, like a co-pilot. As a result, passengers could possibly reduce crash risk for adult drivers.
Is it safe to use a hands-free device to talk on a cell phone while driving?
Debate this question for three minutes with a partner or with teams taking each position: Yes, it’s safe or No, it’s deadly.
CONCLUSION: Portable and vehicle-integrated hands-free cell phone use still involves visual-manual subtasks, which are associated with a greater crash risk, and can cause drivers to miss the important visual and audio cues that would ordinarily help avoid a crash.
Think using a hands-free device while driving makes you safer? Think again.
In order to stay safe, you need your eyes on the road, your hands on the wheel, and your mind on driving.
An estimated 8% of drivers are using some type of phone (either hand-held or hands-free) at any typical daylight moment.
In a recent year, police reports indicate 3,179 people were killed, and 431,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.
Engaging in visual-manual subtasks (such as reaching for a phone, dialing and texting) associated with the use of hand-held phones and other portable devices increased the risk of getting into a crash by three times.
Even portable hands-free and vehicle-integrated hands-free cell phone use involved visual-manual tasks at least half of the time, which is associated with a greater crash risk.
Cell phones are a unique distraction because they involve all three types of driver distraction:
they can take your eyes off the road,
your hands off the wheel, and
your mind off driving, all at the same time.
Tips on Cell Phone Usage and Driving
Turn off your cell phone when you get in your vehicle and turn it back on when you are done driving. Place the cell phone out of your reach while driving – even in the trunk, until you can avoid the temptation. If you can’t turn your phone off, put it on vibrate or silent mode.
Do not send or read texts or emails.
Do not attempt to make calls or check/send emails while stopped at a traffic light as a majority of crashes occur at intersections. We need to stay alert so we can respond to the actions of other drivers.
Be clear to your callers on your voice mail that you are a cell phone-free driver and not available to make calls while driving. Tell them you will return their call when you can safely do so.
Start all calls by asking if anyone is driving. If so, request that they hang-up and call back in when they are in a safe location.
If you spend a lot of time on the road, organize your route and schedule so you can make phone calls from the parking lot of one location before driving to the next one.
Establish regular times when callers can contact you and when you will return calls.
Let someone else drive (when possible) so that you can freely make or receive calls.
If you are traveling with a passenger, allow them to operate the phone.
If you must make an emergency call, leave the road and park in a safe area first.
How many thinking tasks can your brain focus on at one time?
The answer is – one. If your brain has more than one thinking task to choose from, it gets overwhelmed and filters information out.
In terms distraction at the wheel, what’s the difference between chewing gum and talking on the phone?
Chewing gum is not cognitively demanding. You don’t have to think about it!
Would you want a surgeon who is operating on you to be buying something online at the same time?
I didn’t think so. Driving is a job that requires your full attention.
Watch this video:
Just like in the Monkey Business Illusion, if your brain is so focused on one task, it misses other events happening. Multitasking is a serious distraction to drivers.
If you take your mind off the primary task of driving – you may be “looking” but not “seeing,” and therefore miss important information in your driving environment. When people attempt to perform two complex tasks such as driving and talking on a phone, the brain shifts its focus and drivers develop “inattention blindness”.
Distraction occurs any time you take your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, and your mind off your primary task: driving safely. Any non-driving activity you engage in is a potential distraction and increases your risk of crashing.
Driver inattention was a contributing factor in 91,833 Texas crashes in 2014 (Texas Department of Transportation).
Distractions now join alcohol and speeding as leading factors in fatal and serious injury crashes.
Watch this video:
What can you do to avoid these potential distractions?
Don’t drive while calling or texting. Pull off the road to a safe location. Take a Message. Let your voice mail pick up your calls. It’s easier and safer to retrieve your messages later on.
Keep your phone secure. Make sure your phone is secure—in a bag, your pocket or the glove compartment so it doesn’t slide off seats and compel the driver to reach for it while driving.
Don’t take notes while driving. If you need to write something down, pull off the road to a safe spot.
Don’t eat or drink while driving. Spills can easily cause a crash if you have to stop quickly.
Groom yourself at home. Shaving, applying makeup, and brushing your hair are distractions that should not be done while driving.