Ever heard of "inattention blindness"? It's the National Safety Council's buzzword that describes a dangerous distraction: talking while driving. Multitasking may be admired in the office, but using a cell phone while behind the wheel and dealing with traffic means you're not giving your full attention to the task at hand. Studies reveal that objects, including stop signs, that you see while driving may not register to your eyes and brain because several of your senses are directed internally, to the person you're talking to, the subject of conversation and the emotions involved during the call-rather than externally. Being engaged in a vigorous discussion can affect your motor skills, reaction time and alertness.
If you and your employees are relying on in-vehicle cell phone use to conduct business and a crash ensues, you'll pay the price via increases in health and car insurance. Some companies, such as Exxon, are now banning calls in cars during working hours, even with hands-free headsets, except for emergencies. "Drivers may feel safer with a headset and inclined to make more calls," says the NSC's John Ulczycki, "but this is misguided. Your attention is taken off the road, whether you hold the phone or speak into a mic." Studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration agree that headsets may even add to the overall risk.
Here are some tips to keep you and your employees safe behind the wheel:
- Park before using a mobile phone. If you're on a highway, take the next offramp.
- When your cell rings, skip trying to read the caller's ID. It's too distracting.
- Don't answer incoming calls. Let the caller leave a message.
- Keep conversations as short as possible, saying you'll call back later.
- Communicate cell phone/company car policies to employees.
- Focus all five senses on one activity: the act of driving.