Cell Phones and Driving, Revisited

February 2nd, 2005 by

Back on July 19 we blogged the issue of cell phone use while driving. Even as a few states were requiring headsets for drivers who want to carry on a phone conversation, there were studies indicating that head sets did not reduce the danger of distraction — and accidents. Now the Journal of Human Factors (subscription required) has come out with a study that reinforces the earlier concerns. The study showed up as a news bite on my MSN homepage.
“If you put a 20-year-old driver behind the wheel with a cell phone, their reaction times are the same as a 70-year-old driver who is not using a cell phone,” said University of Utah psychology professor David Strayer. “It’s like instantly aging a large number of drivers.” That is a scary thought!
The study indicates that cellphone distraction causes 2,600 deaths and 330,000 injuries in the United States every year.
The new study found that drivers talking on cell phones were 18 percent slower to react to brake lights. While cell phone users did keep a 12 percent greater following distance. they also took 17 percent longer to regain the speed they lost when they braked. Hence, they interfere with the all-important flow of traffic.
As we all know, a delay of mere seconds when you are traveling 75 miles an hour translates into a lot of pavement. With delayed reactions, stopping distances increase by multiple car lengths.
Once again, LynchRyan cautions employers to establish written policies on cell phone use and provide training to employees who routinely drive as part of their jobs. Prudent companies will discourage the use of driving time to conduct business on the phone. If, on the other hand, your company encourages employees to conduct work while driving, you may be liable for the inevitable driving mistakes that employees make while chatting away. It’s not hard to imagine a jury imposing huge financial penalties for negligence on any company that requires its employees to “multi-task” on the road. Written policies should encourage employees to do any serious and detailed phone work at a rest stop.
The Law of Deep Pockets
Keep in mind the “law of deep pockets.” Those who have deep pockets (insured businesses) attract those who do not — in this case, members of the general public who may be harmed by your employees. Need I add that you should not be reading this blog on the screen of your hand-held device while barreling down the freeway? In this season of enhanced driving hazards, keep your eyes on the road ahead.
See also:
Driving and Talking: Are headsets the answer?