It's been a challenging year for Americans, and I think they deserve a truly valuable bonus: a distracted driving policy from their employers.
- In October, President Obama gave one to Federal government employees.
- Last week, Chrysler gave one to its employees.
- Two days ago, Governor Steve Beshear gave one to Kentucky's state employees.
- Yesterday, the New York City Taxicab Commission gave an even tougher policy to cabbies.
Chrysler takes the lead. It's great that one of America's automakers, for whom automotive safety is so important, has acknowledged their natural leadership role on this. "As an automaker," said Nancy Rae, VP of Human Resources, "we expect higher driving standards from our work force and business partners."
In Kentucky, Gov. Beshear told the State Journal,
“With nearly 34,000 civilian employees, state government can and should demonstrate leadership in reducing the dangers of text messaging while driving."
And, praising his action, the Louisville Courier-Journal agreed: "Reasonable people expect the government to do its part to try to save them from irresponsible drivers."
The New York City Taxicab Commission voted unanimously to prohibit cab drivers from wearing in-ear devices. As the New York Times explains,
"Cabbies have been banned from chatting on cellphones, even hands-free ones, for a decade. The problem was that the discreet nature of in-ear devices made enforcement nearly impossible."
The city of New York has long understood the severe cognitive distraction posed by hands-free devices, but New York's cab drivers still don't seem to get it. Listen to what one driver told the Times: “I liken driving in New York to a war zone. You have to multitask.”
Well, actually, Ms. Vega, when you're behind that wheel, you have only one task: drive safely. As Chrysler's Steve Bartoli puts it, "A driver's primary responsibility is to be in control of their vehicle." It's pretty simple.
I'm heartened that the idea that even hands-free devices should be put aside when driving is finally gaining traction. Kate White, editor of Cosmopolitan, recently told her readers,
"You should never drive while texting or talking on a cell phone, even if you’re using a headset or technology such as Bluetooth. Our brain just can’t concentrate fully on driving while it’s engaged in a conversation (even if it’s a dull one!)."
Whether hand-held or hands-free, distracted driving is dangerous driving.
Employers should help spread that message by giving their employees a distracted driving policy. Preferably one reinforced by a message to supervisors that employees are not expected to answer their devices while driving and must not be penalized for letting their phones ring when they're behind the wheel.
This holiday season, please, join the Drive Against Distraction.