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CDC Says Cell Phone ‘Fatal Distraction’ for Drivers

Original article from safetydailyadvisor.blr.com

by Chris Kilbourne

Your company has rules about employees talking on their phones and texting while driving, but are they following them?

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that 69 percent of U.S. drivers talked on their cell phone while driving in the 30 days before they were surveyed. And 31 percent said they had read or sent text messages or e-mails while driving.

“The cell phone can be a fatal distraction for those who use it while they drive,” said CDC Director Thomas Frieden. “Driving and dialing or texting don’t mix. If you are driving, pull over to a safe place and stop before you use your cell phone.”

CDC is not the only organization concerned. The National Safety Council urges drivers to:

  • Stop using cell phones while driving.
  • Understand the dangers of the cognitive distraction to the brain.
  • Inform people who call while driving that you’d be happy to continue the conversation once you have reached your destination.
  • Tell others about the dangers of cell phone distracted driving.

Employers Urged to Act, Too

Jim Evans, president of the human resources consulting firm JK Evans & Associates, LLC, pointed out in an article in USA Today last year that some bosses turn a blind eye to cell phone use behind the wheel. Others don’t want to cut into their employees’ productivity.

“Regardless of the reasons and rationalizations not to have a distracted driving policy, the time has come for all businesses to draft and adopt one.” Many states have taken the lead by passing no-texting or similar laws.

Evans urges employers to “dust off the old cell phone policy or unwritten practices and revisit whether employee safety and employer liability is at risk.”

18% of All Crashes

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) says distracted driving contributed to 18 percent of all injury crashes in 2010, causing more than 3,000 deaths and more than 416,000 injuries. In November 2011, the DOT issued a final rule specifically prohibiting interstate truck and bus drivers from using hand-held cell phones while operating their vehicles.

The Environmental Industry Associations (EIA), the national trade association representing private sector solid waste and recycling services industry, emphasized in a white paper outlining the risks of distracted driving that driving distractions occur whenever drivers take their hands, eyes, ears, and minds off the wheel and the road.

Activities that distract drivers include reading, eating and drinking, operating navigation systems, talking with passengers, or using cell phones to talk, text, or surf the Web.

Cell Phones Main Culprit

Of the activities that distract while driving, cell phone use is of particular concern. Research cited by the EIA white paper finds that cell phones used for texting can increase fatal crashes by 6 to 23 times, and drivers using hand-held devices are 4 times more likely to become involved in crashes serious enough to injure themselves.

The white paper recommends that companies establish rules like these for employees who drive on the job to:

  • Turn off personal phones or switch them to silent mode before entering a company vehicle.
  • Pull over to a safe area first if they need to make a cell phone call or send or answer a text message.
  • Ask a helper or another passenger to make a return call.
  • Arrange times during the day to contact supervisors or dispatchers when the vehicle is parked.
  • Refrain from smoking, eating, drinking, reading, and any other activities that divert their attention from driving.

Company should also:

  • Establish a policy that prohibits drivers from ever sending or responding to text messages, surfing the Web, or reading e-mails while driving because it is dangerous and because it is against the law in many states.
  • Familiarize drivers with state and local laws before they drive a company vehicle.