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Posted at 9:45 AM ET, 11/19/2010

Car shouldn't be your office

By Robert Thomson

orange.jpg
Drivers in Tysons Corner area have plenty of distractions to deal with. (Thomson)

Does your boss expect you to be talking on the phone or texting while you are driving? A new survey of Capital Beltway drivers found that half of them say they are at least occasionally using the phone to respond to work issues. Only 18 percent said they never get on the phone for work.

Drivers 35 to 54 were the age group most likely to be dealing with work while driving, according to the survey, done for AAA Mid-Atlantic and Transurban-Fluor, the latter being the consortium building the High Occupancy Toll lanes in Virginia. We like to think of that age range as mature. Why do they engage in a distracted-driving behavior generally accepted as risky?

A majority of the drivers who respond to work issues while driving said they do so because they feel they should provide an immediate response to their employers.

That's a dangerous addiction, and some bosses are enablers. This is a particular concern in Northern Virginia right now, where most of the western Beltway, the main roads in Tysons Corner, nearby portions of Route 267 and the Telegraph Road interchange near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge are torn up by construction.

The Orange Cones. No Phones. campaign has created an Employer Safety Pledge and hopes to sign up 100 employers to help reduce distracted driving. So far, four have made that commitment: Booz Allen Hamilton, Inova Health System, Science Applications International Corp. and Tysons Corner Center.

I think that having employers tell employees that it's okay to turn the thing off and focus on their driving is at least as valuable as passing laws that are tough to enforce.

The employers are pledging that they will increase awareness among employees of the dangers of distracted driving and "create a new norm where employers consider on-road safety above the need for an immediate response."

Capt. Susan Culin, commander of the Fairfax County police traffic division, points out that distracted driving isn't something that happens only on the Beltway. She describes it as an epidemic and says, "We have to stigmatize this type of behavior and put an end to it."

By Robert Thomson  | November 19, 2010; 9:45 AM ET
Categories:  Traffic Safety, Tysons Corner  | Tags:  Distracted driving, Dr. Gridlock  
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Comments

The cell phone companies enabled the use of phones and the sheepeople are now hooked. Now MACP(mothers against cell phones) needs to get out there and make this new hazzard top priority, more people use cell phones than drive drunk. And those workers using them should be punished more serverely just that the poor slob having that drink beofre getting into gridlock and sitting in his car for 2 hours on the roads. HAHAHAA When Marijuana is legal where can I smoke it?

Posted by: dukeameye1 | November 19, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

I think we live in a culture where business people need to 'hit the ball over the net'. Teens consider it rude not to reply immediately to texts. Home schedules would grind to a halt without immediate communication. We are conditioned to pursue this level of efficiency but we are all supposed cease this behavior once we sit in our respective 5,000 pound pieces of steel and glass. Anyone can win an argument in a forum like this by saying "Just put the phone away" - but we can see its just not happening.

I just read that 72% of teens text daily - many text more 4000 times a month. New college students no longer have email addresses! They use texting and Facebook - even with their professors. This text and drive issue is in its infancy and I think we need to do more than legislate.

I decided to do something about it after my three year old daughter was nearly run down right in front of me by a texting driver. Instead of a shackle that locks down phones and alienates the user (especially teens) I built a tool called OTTER that is a simple app for smartphones. I think if we can empower the individual then change will come to our highways now and not just our laws.

Erik Wood, owner
OTTER LLC
OTTER app

Posted by: ErikWood | November 19, 2010 7:43 PM | Report abuse

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