Cell phone use is one of the most dangerous causes of distracted driving, which led to 8% of fatal crashes, 15% of injury crashes, and 14% of all police-reported motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2018 as per an NHTSA report. When it comes to driving, the distractions can be classified into visual, manual, and cognitive. When behind the wheel, using a cell phone is particularly dangerous as it often represents all three distractions at once. It can put the lives of not only the driver at risk but also of the people around them.
Given that being on the phone while driving poses a serious risk to the person driving and other people and can be potentially fatal, most US states have some sort of prohibition on this practice. Almost all states, 48 to be precise, have imposed an outright ban on texting and driving. Violators are required to pay fines, which depend on factors such as the driver’s age and the number of violations.
The laws usually vary across states and can be different for different classes of drivers. For instance, 36 states and D.C. ban all cell phone use for all novice drivers, while 18 states and D.C. ban all cell phone use for school bus drivers. The only state without any statewide ban on handheld cell phone use is Montana, while Missouri has a ban for drivers younger than 21 years of age. No state has banned all cell phone use for all drivers.
Cell phones can be a nuisance for employers who expect utmost dedication sans distractions from their employers. Given how essential these devices have become, keeping people away from them can be quite a task. But there are a few steps employers can take to regulate cell phone use at work.
Employers can design a cell phone use policy depending on the nature of work, work hours, roles, departments, etc. The policy can prohibit cell phone use entirely while inside the work premises or restrict it significantly. Employees may be asked to use their cell phones only during breaks or keep them silent and use them sparingly.
These restrictions may also be based on the area or type of work, such as production floors while operating heavy equipment, kitchens, and other places where these devices can pose a security threat. The policy can also define the permitted number and duration of calls, headphone/earphone use, and so on. Use of no cell phone signs at maximum visibility spots can reinforce company policies regarding the use,
Cell phone etiquette refers to using cell phones without it becoming a hindrance for the people around. These involve speaking softly, regulating how much time one spends on their phone, and selecting the phone mode depending on the setting one is in. For instance, it is good to have the phone on silent in movie theatres, meetings, hospitals/clinics, libraries, workplaces, etc.
It is also a good practice to avoid using the phone or reaching out for it again and again when with someone. When taking a call in a public place, one may want to be careful of the language they use or the information they give out to avoid unwanted attention or a more serious problem. Cell phones should be avoided in classrooms, lectures, workshops, roads, and other places where one is expected to be attentive.
While there is no standard as such around cell phone use, OSHA does have a Distracted Driving Initiative aimed at tackling the dangers of texting while driving. Through this initiative, OSHA puts the onus of safeguarding drivers at work on the business owner/manager. It requires employers to prohibit texting while driving and establish procedures and rules that minimize/remove the need for texting while driving to execute work duties.
The initiative also requires that employers set up clear procedures, times, and places for drivers’ safe use of texting and other means to communicate with managers, customers, etc. Employers should also incorporate safe communication practices into worker orientation and training, eliminate financial and other incentive systems that encourage workers to text while driving.
Additionally, OSHA’s motor vehicle safety provides a lot of useful information around ensuring worker safety related to the hazards associated with operating motor vehicles.