Is distracted driving now acceptible?

The report says 30% of motorists also now believe they are safe while using mobile phones and driving.

The pandemic had an unexpected effect on road safety when single-vehicle collisions increased rather than decreased.

Now, another unintended result, according to researchers, is that drivers seem to be more tolerant toward distracted driving as a result of the switch to virtual work environments.   

A new report from Root Insurance in the USA discovered that drivers use their phones every 8.8 kilometres. The CEO of MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert, explains: “These findings came from driving data obtained through the Root app in 2020 as well as 1 800 driver surveys in 2021.

The report says 30% of motorists also now believe they are safe while using mobile phones and driving. This is compared to 24% in 2020.

“Many respondents say that as workplaces abruptly shifted to virtual, reliance on technology dramatically increased and caused them to carry the distracted behaviour into their vehicles. At least 68% of respondents said they started to multitask more frequently. This was particularly evident in Millennials and Gen Z with 88 and 87% respectively reporting this.”

Companies should listen to what these stats say as normal work environments return. “Remote working may remain a reality for many companies even once South Africa reaches herd immunity.

The financial strain created by lockdown may force many companies to continue with the remote working practices that they developed during the lockdown.  

“This may necessitate that companies look at their policies regarding driving while distracted (DWD) and adjust it for the remote working environment. DWD policies may need to contain guidance about operating within the virtual environment and reiterate the importance of not driving distracted.”

Raising awareness of this increased dependence on mobile phones is also an important part of stopping this practice. “Many people are not aware of how much their dependence on mobile phones has grown during the pandemic. This increased reliance may be why there is a corresponding increase in the number of people that now think it is safe to use their phone and drive.  

“Permanent and positive change to these numbers may be brought about by helping employees understand how the virtual world changed the use of cellphones in vehicles. Those who understood and respected the danger before might just need a simple reminder that despite the increased pressure of remote working, they should never pick up their phone while driving.”

The pandemic changed workplaces in many ways.

“While at the start of 2020 no one never thought they would have to ban employees from attending meetings while driving, it is now, unfortunately, a reality. Now, as we continue to navigate new work environments it is important to be aware of the effects the connected nature of virtual workplaces might have on your employees,” says Herbert. 

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