Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Distracted Driving on the Job

Photo: Ed Brown
I received a Tweet this afternoon from Consumer Reports about the 2010 Distracted Driving Summit taking place in Washington D.C. involving government leaders, industry executives and safety experts.  Their goal, according to Consumer Reports, is to develop policies designed to limit dangerous distractions.

I don't think anyone would disagree that distracted driving is not just dangerous, it's deadly.  The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that distracted driving resulted in more than 5,400 deaths and 448,000 injuries.  If that's not the slap in the face we all need to put the cell phones, PDAs, mascara brushes and hair combs away while rolling down while rushing off to work, school or wherever, I don't know what it will take.  And, I say that knowing-- full well-- that I am guilty of doing everything from trying to pull something out of the rear console or eating, to talking on the phone or texting all while driving.  I know, I know--- STUPID!  I need to sign that pledge Oprah promotes.

I'm writing this because I know of many other folks in my former line of work who do the same thing, seemingly out of necessity because of work.  Following the outstanding suggestions listed in the Consumer Reports blog post isn't that easy in today's world of journalism, particularly broadcast journalism where corporate executives and news managers are intent on changing the business from a team endeavor to one that is, for the most part, an individual one.  This change has taken its toll on a lot of things, but none is more important than safety.

Gone are the days when a reporter could safely make calls while enroute to a location, or send a quick text to let a source know they are on the way to meet, or check the PDA for that important email message they were expecting, all while in the passenger seat of the news vehicle while their photographer handled the driving.  Now, that reporter is also the photographer and driver.  Which means when the phone-- yes, the phone that the reporter's bosses have said is NOT to be turned off (forget about Suggestion #1) and ALWAYS to be answered under penalty of suspension, or worse-- rings and it's the newsroom, what do you think the wet-behind-the-ears rookie reporter is going to do?

That's just one example of distracted driving on the job.  Many reporters also eat-on-the-go, picking up fast food at a drive-thru and scarfing it down while racing to the next destination.  Can you imagine one hand on the steering wheel, also holding a burger and the other hand reaching in a bag to grab some fries?  Then the phone rings and it's the assignment desk….  Yes, you get the picture.

If you’re a news manager and you don’t have policy in place dealing with distracted driving, develop a policy pronto!  Protect the safety of everyone on the roadways and remove any confusion for employees over what to do when that urgent call from the desk comes in while they’re in rush hour traffic driving to an assignment.

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