I can’t tell you the number of times I have been driving somewhere and looked over to see someone texting as they are driving. Cell phone use while operating a motor vehicle is a form of distracted driving and is extremely dangerous.
At any given time throughout the day, approximately 660,000 drivers are attempting to use their phones while behind the wheel of an automobile. Smartphones have made it easy for us to stay connected at all times. But that can pose serious safety risks if someone decides to check text messages, emails, phone calls or any other mobile applications while driving. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that cell phones are involved in 6,000 auto fatalities each year.
But this is not limited to the on-highway experience. Off-road equipment operators are also guilty of pulling out that cell phone and texting, checking email or other activities.
Operating mobile equipment has inherent risks that can be mitigated by training, supervision, maintaining equipment in proper operating condition and following established procedures; however, using a cell phone introduces the hazard of distracting the equipment operator and dramatically increases the chances of being involved in an accident.
The Mine Safety and Health Administration is asking you to consider the following facts about cell phone usage in the automotive industry that can be translated to the operation of off-road equipment:
- The risks of operating mobile equipment while intoxicated are widely known, but using a cell phone can be up to six times worse.
- In a reaction test, a driver who was using a cell phone took over twice as long to react to a red light than when the driver was legally impaired by alcohol.
- Writing or reading a text message takes your eyes off the road for an average of five seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of a football field blindfolded.
- Currently, 46 states have laws banning texting while operating a vehicle.
Using your cell phone while operating mobile equipment takes your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel and your mind off operating the equipment. No call, text or email is worth the risk.
So whether you are operating a haul truck down in the pit or running a front-end loader filling trucks at the stockpile, keep the phone in your pocket until you are parked. The life you save may be your own.
Mark S. Kuhar, editor