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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Talking and Driving: Just Say NO!

April is Distracted Driving Month. To raise awareness of the dangers of driving distracted, the following message was sent to all Department of Commerce employees to remind us 1) how easily and severely we can be distracted with phones and conversations, not just text messages, and 2) that it is against federal regulations to talk or text on your phone while driving a government vehicle or in your own vehicle on work-related business.

While it isn't illegal everywhere yet, common sense dictates we shouldn't do it, none of us, ever. If you have a true emergency, pull over, then get on the phone. My friend Seri posted a great suggestion on Facebook yesterday: Whenever you get in the car, put your phone in the back seat, out of reach. No message is as important as your life.

From the Department of Commerce:

Do you believe you can talk on your cell phone (handheld or hands-free) and drive safely at the same time?  Before you answer, please read the following story:

In January 2004, at 4:00 p.m., in Michigan, a 20-year-old woman ran a red light while talking on a cell phone.  The driver’s vehicle slammed into another vehicle crossing with the green light directly in front of her.  The vehicle she hit was not the first car through the intersection, it was the third or fourth.  The police investigation deter­mined the driver never touched her brakes and was traveling 48 mph when she hit the other vehicle.  The crash cost the life of a 12-year-old boy.  Witnesses told investigators that the driver was not looking down, not dialing the phone, or texting.  She was observed looking straight out the windshield talking on her cell phone as she sped past four cars and a school bus stopped in the other south bound lane of traffic.  Researchers have called this crash a classic case of inattention blindness caused by the cognitive distraction of a cell phone conversation.  (To read the full study, go to:

Throughout April, the Department of Commerce is supporting the National Safety Council’s (NSC) Distracted Driving Month and is urging its employees and contractors to consider the lives of others on the road and to stop using cell phones (handheld and hands-free) and to stop texting while driving.  To spread the message, all Commerce employees should talk with their families and friends not just about stopping cell phone use and texting, but about eliminating all distractions while driving.  (Go to the following NSC webpage to take the Pledge to Drive Cell Free:

Some statistics:
·         Sending text or e-mail messages while driving is extremely dangerous, as it draws the driver’s eyes, mind, and hands away from the road.  On average, texting causes drivers to look away from the road for 4.6 seconds.  At 55 mph, the vehicle travels the length of an entire football field during that time, while the driver isn’t looking!
·         NSC estimates 28 percent of all crashes – or 1.6 million – each year are caused by drivers using their handheld or hands-free cell phones and texting while driving.  This is much greater than the number of crashes caused by any other distraction. 
·         A University of Utah driving simulator study found drivers using cell phones had slower reaction times than drivers impaired by alcohol at a .08 blood alcohol concentration, the legal intoxication limit.  Braking time also was delayed for drivers talking on hands-free and handheld phones.

Employees who drive as part of their job are prohibited from texting while driving.  Executive Order (EO) 13513 – Federal Leadership on Reducing Text Messaging While Driving (October 1, 2009) notes that “Federal employees shall not engage in text messaging (a) when driving GOV (Government-Owned Vehicle), or when driving POV (Privately-Owned Vehicle) while on official Government business, or (b) when using electronic equipment supplied by the Government while driving.”

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