Engine On Phone Off is a higher level driver risk management policy than prevailing road safety law across Australia. Such a policy eliminates the risk of distraction to drivers altogether whereas permitting a mobile phone to be used, subject to compliance with it mounting in a proprietary cradle and non-touching by the driver, still creates a visual and cognitive distraction. Taking your eyes off the road to look at a phone for just 2 seconds doubles your chance of a crash.
Some studies of eye and head movement tracking show increased risk of crashing as high as 20% when mobile phone and other infotainment devices are accessed while driving.
Murcotts regard any visual or cognitive distraction as the highest risk factor working against safe driving. Texting and attempting to read messages/emails is such a serious risk that employers would be well advised to demand engine on phone off to avoid potential vicarious liability and breaches of EHS legislation.
The importance of the driver being totally focussed on the task of driving is born out in Murcotts Defensive Driving exercises when drivers are asked to perform simple low speed manoeuvres without error. Usually the driver’s concentration is heightened during the activity and any suggestion that the driver handle a phone call at the same time would induce considerable stress. Yet many drivers think nothing of holding a complex telephone conversation while travelling at much higher speeds on public roads.
A policy that encourages regular rest stops from driving also permits drivers to catch up on calls and messages so Engine On Phone Off is a policy can that improve the performance of those who drive for their work.
Given the high dependence on mobile phones by most people, it follows that asking them to not use their phone while driving conflicts with their habitual behaviour. Rather than blame drivers for this “normal” behaviour, an employer that adopts an Engine On Phone Off policy accepts its responsibility to protect their drivers from this risky tendency.