OSH Safety and Employees Use Of Cell Phones While Driving

For over a year now a OSH safety enhancing law on the use of cell phones while driving has been in place, but personally I have seen little change. I was reminded of this only last week driving behind a car doing 40 km/hr in a 50 km/hr area. It wasn’t just the fact he was crawling, but the way he was drifting across the road that got me concerned. I immediately thought he must be drunk. Moving out to look at him through his driver’s side mirror, I could see him glued to a phone – and then I saw a map being flung about. And then, a few days later, I witnessed a woman texting on her phone while driving on the motorway. She was more aware on her surrounds though, as she was concealing the texting by holding the phone on her lap – she just didn’t count on a higher seated van driving past. This got me thinking; is the law change actually driving a more unsafe behaviour?


Texting while driving has got to be a no-brainer. However, I know myself when a cell phone beeps to signal a ‘critical’ text message has arrived, I’ve had to condition myself not to look. We are so conditioned to race to and answer the phone, its little wonder why people read their text while driving – and its a small step to then reply. In the US, the phone giant AT&T were so concerned with this behaviour that they have released an excellent 10 minute video on what can happen.

New Zealand has made a taken a more general approach to its educational campaign, and focused on the use of cell phones while driving, whether texting or talking. The latest advert focus’ on the person doing the calling – if you know they are driving then hang up.

It could be argued the law has just driven (excuse the pun) texting underground and forced people to now drive and text with their phone in their lap, as opposed to holding the phone up in the drivers line of sight. I certainly know some people would argue this point – and miss the bigger picture that its dangerous to text regardless of the phone position! My personal experience has been that laws are not always that effective in changing behaviours. I remember my Dad who used to drape the shoulder part of the seat belt across his shoulder, so that it would look like he had his belt on and less likely to be stopped by a cop. This was when New Zealand were running an aggressive campaign to wear seat belts. It was only when us kids kept telling his to just click it in (before the ‘make it click’ campaign years later) that his behaviour changed. That is, while the Government have taken a legal stance on cell phone use while driving, change will only occur when society buy into and no longer condone this behaviour.

As a business owner or manager then, if you have your employees on the road then you need some kind of policy around use of cell phones while driving. It is a two way street, and not just a case of an employee breaking the law. How does the Head Office safely communicate with the worker on the road ie how do you ensure you are not putting the employee at risk, and breaking the law, by calling and talking to them? Make a simple, clear statement around this particular hazard for both the driving employees, but also the workers in the office. Not only will you ensure compliance with the ‘cellphone’ law, but you will positively enhance safety behavious and a culture around safety.

PS When I see anyone on the phone while driving, I give them a toot and a ‘what are you doing’ wave of the hands – most at least have the understanding to look sheepish, which is a start.

What do you do?