February 12, 2009

Prying the Cell Phone from Your Cold, Dead Hands?

The National Safety Council, surely a credible safety organization, has come out for a total ban on cell phone use while driving. The council points to increasing evidence that the distraction of cell phone use - with or without headphones - is a major cause of accidents. The council has written to the governors of all 50 states, recommending legislation to outlaw cell phones for individuals operating vehicles.

This is from their press release: “Studies show that driving while talking on a cell phone is extremely dangerous and puts drivers at a four times greater risk of a crash,” said Janet Froetscher, president and CEO of the NSC. “Driving drunk is also dangerous and against the law. When our friends have been drinking, we take the car keys away. It’s time to take the cell phone away.”

Of course, this is not about to happen. A few states have limited cell phone use - some require headsets and others prohibit teen drivers from using the ubiquitous devices. (The NSC website has maps showing which states have implemented bans.) Charleton Heston famously noted that he would never give up his right to bear arms - you would have to pry his guns from his "cold, dead hands." American consumers have a similar attachment to their cell phones. Unfortunately, if the NSC numbers are correct, thousands of drivers will end up in accidents, cell phones in their cold hands - or perhaps headsets on their (cold) ears.

Looming Liabilities
The Insider has no position on cell phone use while driving. We recognize that it's a dangerous distraction, but one that has become an essential component of American life. Do it if you must, but do it carefully.

The emerging issue is one of liability. Many of us make work-related calls while driving in our vehicles. If we were distracted during such a call (post-accident, it is pretty easy to determine to whom we were talking at the exact moment of impact), our employers are vulnerable to lawsuits for negligence.

In response to what is now a widely acknowledged risk, some employers have issued policies banning cell phone use while driving on company business. Are they serious about this, or are they just "covering their butts?" It's one thing to have a policy, but if employers really intend to use the policy as a defense, they would have to prove that the cell phone ban is enforced. Theoretically, they would have to correlate cell phone records with known "time on the road" and take disciplinary action on employees who violate the policy. (Sounds like a lot of work for not much return, let alone a way of seriously compromising productivity.)

Perhaps the parties with the most at stake are the insurance carriers - the folks who write general liability and fleet auto policies for American companies, large and small. They are ultimately holding the bag for losses due to "negligent" driving. I wonder if these insurers will begin to require that their insureds issue and enforce "no cell phone" policies for drivers, in a manner similar to their requirements for safety committees and return-to-work programs for workers comp policy holders.

It will be interesting to track the development of this new and potentially expensive liability. In the meantime, the NCS has raised the bar significantly for all of us who drive and talk, and dare I add, drive and text. The sages of India recommend "one point of attention" at all times: when driving, just drive. Alas, this is hardly a viable option for a nation of time-harassed multi-taskers.



Personal responsibility is the key to safety not more government regulation. What's next banning eating and driving or perhaps no talking to passengers. I find this can be distracting as well.

Absolutly, lets elminate cell phone use while driving, while walking, while working, while sitting back in a chair.

Also, speaking of driving lets elminate:
Other Traffic
Dashboard Displays
Things hanging from the rear view mirror
Drive thru resturants
Drive thru starbucks
Eating whild driving
Drinking anything while driving
And as far as Insurnace driving on business require the use of a car and driver with insurance and no cell phone to get directions or help with.
Lets elminate smoking while driving
Chewing tobacco while driving
Changing lanes while driving
Lets eliminate being pulled over, what a distraction.
Eliminate speed limit signs they are such a distraction while driving and trying to keep some arbitary speed limit.
Eliminate left turns al together.
Eliminate stop signs, astop light at every corner.
Eliminate intersections.
Eliminate tailgaters, mound a cannon on the back with a range finder and anybody closer than 50 meters gets blown away.
Eliminate large trucks on the road they are a distraction.
Eliminate Congress wasting our money that is a real distraction.

Boy I could really get into this one.


Hummmmm..... What about insurance carriers offering premium discounts for "no cell phone use while driving"?. It would be difficult for the insurance carrier to determine when and if a person was using their phone,unless they had an accident. I could see a carrier willing to pull phone records in order to deny a claim. If I knew my insurance would not cover an accident I had while I was on my cell, I would be pulling over to the side of the road to answer that call.

In most States in Australia using a mobile whilst driving is an offence - it is an obvious danger - we dont need to do it - are we so sad in our lives that we have to be continually connected with the phones -

I agree with Jim Sheridan: "Personal responsibility is the key to safety not more government regulation." That said, I find it very disappointing that Jon Coppelman, speaking for the Insider, "has no position on cell phone use while driving. We recognize that it's a dangerous distraction, but one that has become an essential component of American life. Do it if you must, but do it carefully." Readers have come to expect the Insider to take firm positions on the side of safety and "Do something dangerous carefully" just isn't up to the usual standards.

Here folks, take a moment and digest this information and use it to support your message against driving and phoning etc. From Safety Stand Down Week.

I posted this on Safety News Alert that has an extensive discussion on this capped off with this info. You can find that at the link here...

There are four types of driving distraction:
 VISUAL – Looking for the cellphone.
 BIOMECHANICAL – Manipulating a device, such as dialing a phone number, or for those users of PDAs, formulating an email response.
 AUDITORY – Being startled by a ringing cellphone.
 COGNITIVE – Mind not on the task, thinking about something other than driving.
 HANDS FREE cellphones reduce VISUAL and BIOMECHANICAL distractions; however, they do nothing for the other two. More importantly, they do nothing for the COGNITIVE distraction. This being the most important task – concentrating on driving.
Why cellphone conversations are mentally demanding:
 Cellphone users visualize or create in their minds an image of the person being spoken to. This takes mental effort and undermines the cognitive work of interpreting the driving environment.
 When you are engaged in a cellphone conversation, you have to listen to the other person, think about what they are saying, and plan your response. This takes away some resources which you would otherwise have applied towards driving.
 Cellphone drivers are trapped by social etiquette that will not let them drop, discontinue, or be unresponsive in cellphone conversations.
 Social conventions and habits govern expectations of how long we pause, how we respond, vocal tones and inflections, appropriate placement and expression of non-verbal cues (uh huh, um, oh, etc.), and levels of interest and engagement expressed.
 Stressful, emotional or important conversations are even more demanding, but even the mundane conversations will remove your concentration from the task of driving.

Why cellphones increase drivers reaction time to hazards: Studies have shown that drivers engaged in cellphone conversations:

 Are four times more likely to crash than other drivers.
 Pose a risk comparable to alcohol impaired driving at 0.1 BAC – That’s above the legal limit of Canada of 0.8.
 Significantly have poorer driving performance whether measured by speed control, following distance or reaction time.

A major study has been performed by University of Utah (Psychology Professor David Strayer 2001).

 Reaction time while driving and using a cellphone is worse than the reaction time when driving under the influence. (Of course, neither is acceptable practice. The difference is that only one is currently against the law).
 The driver using a cellphone has traveled 14m longer than a driver with normal reaction.
 Drivers take longer to react to the traffic signals. They are twice as likely to miss a traffic signal when they are talking on the cellphone.
 Although hands free telephones reduce manual and visual distractions, cognitive distractions are still present.

Why cellphone use while driving reduces your field of view:
 Eye-movement of drivers using cellphones is reduced to tunnel vision because they are concentrating on the conversation.
 Search also found that the tunnel vision caused by cellphone use continued well after the conversation ends. Perhaps because the driver is still thinking about the conversation.
 The study found that most drivers seldom glance away from the road when talking on the cellphone. You should move your eyes every 2 seconds to avoid tunnel vision.

Responsibilities as a driver:
 Never take a phone call while driving.
 Allow passenger or voice mail box to take the message.
 In an emergency, pull well off the road to receive or send phone calls.

Hope this helps...

Personal responsiblity is NO LONGER the key to safety in our society. We are all victims. No one is responsible for any of their actions or outcomes.
This cultural belief will continually disolve more and more of our individiual freedoms and rights. Enjoy the ride and watch the tram car.


Submit your email to be notified when this site is updated

Need help with your workers' comp program?

Monthly Archives

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Jon Coppelman published on February 12, 2009 3:20 PM.

Cavalcade of Risk Issue #71 was the previous entry in this blog.

Pain as a Variable of Coverage is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID