Driving as Collaboration

In recent years I have trained four of my children to drive (sometime soon we’ll be at the halfway point: four down, seven to go). For a couple I was the near solo teacher; for others, additional friends and family have helped too (for which I was very grateful).

One of the principles I have tried to instill in my young drivers is that each driver bears responsibility for their own safety on the road, but also for other drivers too. How you drive your vehicle has an impact on the safety on others, for example:

  • Whether you brake fast and at the last second – or give enough warning to the person traveling behind you.
  • Whether you start to pull out at a roundabout and then stop suddenly after having a proper look at what’s coming (which can lead to a rear end collision) – or make it a practice to look properly before starting to go.
  • Whether you drive straight in your lane, or swerve between the extremes of your allocated space.
  • Whether you focus on your driving, or allow influences within and beyond your car to distract from the driving task.

And so on.

It’s the collaboration of driving: everyone working together to get each person safely to where they are going.

I was thinking about this joint responsibility yesterday when talking with a young person about using a phone while driving. While it’s not illegal to drive-and-talk-on-the-phone in New Zealand as long as you have a hands-free kit, I think it is sufficiently distracting to reduce ones ability to focus on the main task: driving safely to where you are going, and helping everyone else do the same too. If the mere presence of a smartphone in line of sight reduces cognitive capability for the task-at-hand, talking on the phone while engaged in a task with life-and-death consequences must be even worse. Have you noticed how people talking on their phone in normal situations zone out of what’s going on around them?

My view: no talking on the phone and driving.

I went looking for evidence of this position, and found this study:

Talking on the phone in the car is hugely dangerous even if you’re on hands-free, according to a new study.

All phones should be banned from cars, whether or not they are actually being held by the person using them, the new research suggests.

It is having a voice engage people in conversation that makes people react badly to hazards, the research has found, rather than the actual act of using the phone.

The study looked at volunteers who were asked to respond a range of driving hazards in a simulation. Those included pedestrians stepping into the road or cars coming up the wrong side of the road.

People who had a voice that was looking to speak to them detected and reacted to half as many hazards, the research found.

Source: The Independent, Talking While Driving is Incredibly Dangerous, Even When Using Hands-Free, New Study Finds (the comments are interesting too).

I’m sure there are other studies that present evidence that there is no difference in safety whether you are talking on the phone or not.

What’s your approach to driving and talking on the phone?

Categories: Miscellaneous