Group Calls for Nationwide Ban on Cell Use While Driving

The National Safety Council has proposed a nationwide ban of cell phone usage while driving. The NSC wants to advance this proposal with the help of businesses, but will small business multitaskers put their mobiles away?

Road warriors are a staple of small to midsize businesses. They're the people who can hit the highways at a moment's notice to troubleshoot, meet new clients or take advantage of fast-moving opportunities. Chances are, your road warriors are also on their cell phones while they're on the road. This week, The National Safety Council issued a release calling on all motorists to stop using cell phones and messaging devices while driving. Furthermore, the organization is urging businesses, governors and legislators to enact policies prohibiting it.
"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 NSC President and CEO Janet Froetscher, who compared the danger of talking and driving to that of driving while drunk. "When our friends have been drinking, we take the car keys away. It's time to take the cell phone away."
For those small business owners who know (and understand) how likely it is their employees are talking and messaging on cell phones, the release highlights the importance with which national agencies view this issue. However, it is not likely to stop the millions of drivers who can't get through their commute without picking up the phone. Froetscher says companies can try to curb this habit.
"Anyone with a busy job knows the temptation to multitask and stay in touch with the office while driving," Froetscher said. "Believe me, I've been there. I didn't realize how much risk I was taking. Most people don't. Employers understand how dangerous the behavior is and their potential liability. We are asking all businesses to join us by adopting policies banning calling and texting while driving on the job."
The release cites a report from the Harvard Center of Risk Analysis, which found cell phone use while driving contributes to 6 percent of crashes, which equates to 636,000 crashes, 330,000 injuries, 12,000 serious injuries and 2,600 deaths each year. The study put the annual financial toll of cell phone-related crashes at $43 billion.
"When you're on a call, even if both hands are on the wheel, your head is in the call, and not on your driving," Froetscher said. "Unlike the passenger sitting next to you, the person on the other end of the call is oblivious to your driving conditions. The passenger provides another pair of eyes on the road."
The NSC also put forward the results of a survey involving NSC member businesses, which found that 45 percent of those firms said they have company policies prohibiting on-road cell phone use. Of those, 85 percent said the policies make no difference in business productivity.
The NSC is not the first organization to call attention to the dangers of driving and talking. In December, the University of Utah released a study that found the likeliness of making a mistake while driving and talking on a cell phone is higher than if the driver were talking to a passenger. The report's authors said the problems could have stemmed from inattention "blindness," or insufficient processing of information from the driving environment.