Construction contractors and their employees are busy, even when they are traveling. How many of your employees (or you) multitask when driving between worksites or even when operating equipment? A recent study from AAA offers even further evidence on how dangerous distracted driving habits are - even if we think the extra activities are safer such as using hands free devices.
The study looked at common tasks drivers engage in including listening to the radio, talking on a cell phone and hands-free phone, and listening and responding to in-vehicle, voice activated tasks.
The level of distraction for these activities was rated on a scale of one to five, and categorized as a minimal, moderate or extensive risk.
“Increased mental workload and cognitive distractions can lead to a type of tunnel vision or inattention blindness where motorists don’t see potential hazards right in front of them," said AAA Foundation President and CEO Peter Kissinger.
More distractions mean the brain is working harder, and as this mental workload increases reaction time can slow down and driver focus can decrease - even with hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.
Here are some of the results of levels of distraction for common activities as reported by Safety News Alert:
- Listening to the radio: 1.21
- Listening to an audio book: 1.75
- Talking with a passenger: 2.33
- Talking on a handheld cell phone: 2.45
- Talking on a hands-free cell phone: 2.27
- Using a speech-to-text email system: 3.06
- Performing an OSPAN task: 5.0 - an Operation Span task requires participants to simultaneously perform math and memorization. It was used to obtain a measure for a particularly difficult mental task.
One of the most important findings of the study is that hands free does not mean risk free. Hopefully this study will help construction contractors realize how important safe driving is an encourage all employees not to multitask when behind the wheel of a vehicle or construction equipment.