Benefits of a Ban

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A ban on cell phone use while driving will reduce injuries and fatalities, as well as boost productivity.

In a recent Travelers insurance online poll by Harris Poll, four in 10 drivers said they used their cell phones while driving, often because they felt they had to always be available and didn’t want to upset their boss. One-quarter of respondents said their employer had called or texted them even when they knew they’d be driving. And if one of your employees has an accident reading or responding to such a text, you can be liable.

With distracted driving now responsible for more traffic fatalities than DUI, is work pressure encouraging drivers to be part of the problem?

Zero tolerance

If you’re not actively discouraging cell phone use while on the road, you should be. Zero-tolerance for texting while driving, and the consequences for doing so, should be part of your official policy. Many companies are going so far as to ban cell phone use outright, and you may be surprised by the results.

Your company’s cell phone policy can be a bigger deterrent than legislation. In 2010, the Strength in Numbers Fleet Benchmarking Study by the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety found lower crash rates in companies with no-cell phone policies; the survey covered 45 companies, 400,000 vehicles and more than 12 billion kilometres and found the lowest crash rates among those companies with total bans on cell phone use.

Strict enforcement was another element that decreased crash rates, with six of the eight leaders more likely to terminate a driver for violating the policy. All 13 of the bottom-ranked companies had some kind of policy, but none terminated drivers for violating it. Research has shown that laws prohibiting cell phone use are less effective.

Bans boost productivity

It may seem counter-intuitive, but cell phone bans have also been shown to increase, not decrease, productivity. A 2009 survey by the US National Safety Council found that only one out of 469 member organizations with handheld and hands-free bans reported a decrease in productivity. The NSC contacted Fortune 500 companies a couple of years later and found that of the 150 that responded, 20 percent had full cell phone bans in place.

Mike Watson, Shell’s global road safety manager, said the company saw an increase in fatalities among employees and contractors due to “drivers using mobile phones while driving” since the 1990s; in 2005, the company extended its cell phone ban to include texting and hands-free technology. (In more than 30 studies, hands-free devices haven’t been found to be any safer than hand-held because they don’t eliminate distractions).

Watson told the New York Times their policy was strictly enforced “up to and including dismissal.” A company representative subsequently said they have not monitored any monetary loss of productivity, and that they saw crashes reduced by about 57 percent between 2008 and 2011, with other safety initiatives such as speed reduction efforts contributing to the decrease.

In 2015, NHTSA said that human error was the critical reason for a crash 94 percent of the time, and there’s no such thing as multi-tasking—when their brains are overloaded with two cognitive tasks, people unwittingly switch their attention, making one task primary and the other secondary. Driving should never be a secondary task.

Getting employees on board with a total ban can be difficult, and the NSC recommends a minimum of four weeks to fully introduce a workplace cellphone policy.

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