Over 40 countries around the world also have laws in place that prohibit the use of mobile phones behind the wheel. Not counted here is the United States, where only six states have a total ban – New York, New Jersey, Washington, District of Columbia, Connecticut and California. The rest have either a partial or no prohibition at all.
A recent study by British firm Transport Research Laboratory reveals that a driver’s reaction time decreases by 35 per cent when text messaging on the cell phone while driving, and by 12 per cent when driving drunk.
In short, your reaction time is higher when you’re driving under the influence of alcohol than when you’re driving under the influence of your iPhone or other mobile devices – not that any of these two acts can even be considered a lesser evil than the other as they are equally detrimental to safety.
In this highly interconnected world where information has become so pervasive and is constantly being pushed out to people through their mobile devices, employers and safety practitioners are facing new challenges. This mobile generation of people has become so dependent on real-time communication that they don’t typically associate the use of these devices with their own safety or those of others.
How many times in the past have you answered or made a phone call while driving? Most, if not all, are probably guilty of this soon-to-be-illegal act at one point or more in our lives.
One of the greatest challenges safety managers have faced and are facing is changing the way people think and work. Creating a culture of safety in the organization meant introducing workers to a new way of working – from one that’s driven by numbers and production to one that’s influenced by quality and safety.
Now with the safety challenges posed by an increasingly mobile workforce, the seeds that were sown during that long and hard process of developing and instilling the virtues of safety are put to the test. Safe work behaviours should not only be demonstrated and practiced at the workplace, but in all aspects of your workers’ lives. That’s probably one real indication that all the preaching and the training about risks and hazards have paid off – including the ability to make the right choice between answering a call while driving, or letting voice mail take it.
Employers have a responsibility in creating a safe mobile society, too. Let your workers know they won’t be castigated for not being able to take your call or a client’s call right away because they were driving. No business deal can be more important than the risk of a worker being injured or causing someone to be injured.
Safe mobile phone use should now be part of safety training in the organization. It’s now part of the whole culture of safety you want your workplace and your workers to achieve.
Educate your workers to make the right call, by not taking the call.
Mari-Len De Guzman is the editor of Canadian Occupational Safety magazine you can contact her at
Mari-Len De Guzman is the former editor of Canadian Occupational Safety magazine and www.cos-mag.com.