We're all told of the importance of multi-tasking but, sometimes, its career limiting and even potentially fatal - to you and others around you. Recently, I was chatting over coffee with a senior executive, who proudly demonstrated his 'technique' for using his thumbs and forefingers so he can read and reply to email while driving. I told him how dangerous this was, but he didn't seem overtly concerned. Think of it this way, even if you survived, could you live with yourself if your actions caused the death of another, particularly a child?
According to Federal data, an estimated 16,000 people in the US have died in accidents caused by drivers sending text messages while driving between 2001 and 2007. The fact that 39 states have now banned texting/emailing at the wheel doesn't appear to have deterred the majority. E-mail is convenient, immediate and can almost be classed as addictive.
However, it could also be the last thing you do.
Recent research by AOL reported that over 50 percent of respondents admitted to checking their email when driving, despite the fact that a new study done by the Transport Research Laboratory for the British Royal Automobile Club Foundation appears to confirm that texting behind the wheel can be more dangerous than driving while under the influence of alcohol. You wouldn't drive after drinking, so why would you answer your email? People used to be extra cautious after midnight on the roads, in case some of their fellow road-users were under the influence of alcohol. But this new trend isn't just a worry for the small hours - texting and emailing while driving is a risk at any time. Researchers as part of a British study observing drivers between the ages of 17 and 24 found their reaction was slowed by 35 percent when they were writing or reading text messages. That's more than twice the slowed reaction time after drinking alcohol. They also found that drivers who were texting were also less able to maintain safe distances from other cars and tended to drift out of their lanes. Does this worry you as much as it worries me?
We are regularly putting ourselves and everyone around us on the roads at a very serious and real risk of hard by the simple task of checking our email in unsafe situations.
Because of our 24/7, 'always on' communication networks, many workers feel compelled to be continually 'wired in to the network', regardless of what else they might be doing at the time. We all can, and should, do more to prevent senseless accidents and needless deaths on our roads. Employers need to reinforce to their staff the need to put the PDA down while behind the wheel but, most importantly, we all really need to STOP, THINK, and take control of own behavior, and that of our loved ones and our colleagues. We need to readdress our priorities and put our basic need for safety ahead of our desire to stay connected and our obsession with new technology.
What is the cost of doing this? An hour's delay responding to a message? 5 minutes to pull over and take an urgent call or respond to a message?
What is the cost of not doing this? You'll never know until the unthinkable happens, but it can be catastrophic.
Make a promise to yourself today to stop texting while driving, and to be adamant with others around you to do the same, the same as we all did with alcohol all those years ago. No exceptions. No tolerance. The life you save could be your own.
To find out more about the National findings, visit http://blog.vlingo.com/distracted-driving-summit/ To read the complete AOL Study, visit http://o.aolcdn.com/cdn.webmail.aol.com/survey/aol/en-us/index.htm.
Marsha Egan, CPCU, PCC is CEO of The Egan Group, Inc., a Reading, PA based professional coaching firm. She is a certified workplace productivity coach and professional speaker, specializing in leadership development and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.InboxDetox.com.
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