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Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) is first for independent health and safety news.
November 21, 2014

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Creating a taboo: Is talking on a hands-free phone while driving morally unacceptable?

The road charity, Brake, wants drivers to switch off their mobiles when at the wheel. With road accidents being the biggest cause of work related accidental death, do we really need to be constantly connected to the office or should there be a ban on hands-free kits when driving?

Did you see the gorilla?

You may have seen the internet film, which asked people to count the number of passes in a basketball game. Many of us were so focused on the task that we didn’t notice the person in a gorilla suit enter the scene, thump their chest and walk away again!

Brain overload

According to science, this phenomenon is due to ‘inattentional blindness’. Our brains are constantly bombarded by so many sights, sounds, smells etc. that we would be overloaded if we had to process it all. So, we filter out the ‘unimportant’, meaning that when our attention is focused on one thing we fail to notice the unexpected, whether this is a gorilla at a basketball game or a car stopping suddenly in front of us.

Do you drive and talk?

It’s been 10 years since the ban on hand-held mobiles came into force but are hands-free phones much safer?

According to the Transport Research Laboratory, using a hands free kit while driving can be more dangerous than drink driving – reaction times are 30% slower than at the UK legal drink drive limit and 50% slower than driving under normal conditions. It’s the call itself that’s the distraction, not holding the phone.

Should hands-free be banned?

Opinions are divided and an outright ban may be difficult to enforce. However, just like strong awareness campaigns have made drink driving taboo, we can affect culture – make it morally wrong to drive and talk on the phone.

But this has to start at a company level. Realistically would you hang up on your boss or an important client if they called while you were driving? Would this be different if you knew your boss or client would not continue a conversation with you if they knew you were driving?

Company policies should address this and we should educate and stimulate discussion amongst our workforce… at every level. The message needs to be that you will be respected for not phoning and driving and this needs to come from the top. If we can change moral perceptions, we can ultimately change behaviour.

There are many benefits of technology but with 200 people a day injured while driving on company business, isn’t it time we did more to protect our employees?

Driving for Better Safety - Free eBook download

With employees who drive for business more likely to be killed at work than deep sea divers or coal miners, driver safety is a vital business consideration.

Download this eBook from Driving for Better Business and SHP to cover:

  • The danger of the roads;
  • Comparing road safety in the UK to the rest of Europe;
  • Decreasing risk: Avoiding accidents;
  • Road safety best practice;
  • What is fleet risk?
  • Managing work-related road safety.
Driver Safety eBook cover

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