(BPT) - Mobile phones have become an essential part of life for most people, helping them stay connected and increase productivity. However, this technology can also be a distraction when driving, which puts everyone on the road at risk.
More than one-quarter of all car crashes involve phone use, both with handsets and hands-free, the National Safety Council reports. Considering many states and countries don't yet compile and report data on cellphone use following a crash, this number is likely much higher.
Distracted driving isn't just an issue for young adults. High technology use means this is a problem across generations. For professionals in particular, the expectation to stay productive and reachable means a constant temptation to use cellphones when driving.
Recognizing the ethical and liability issues that arise when employees drive while distracted, employers across the country have begun implementing distracted-driving policies. Typically, these policies prohibit employees from using mobile phones while driving on company time.
In January 2017, the NSC reported that Cargill was the largest privately held company to prohibit the use of mobile devices, including hands-free technology, while an employee is driving on behalf of the company. Cargill's Chairman and CEO David MacLennan just marked the one-year anniversary of following the policy.
"I had to try the policy myself first," says MacLennan. "Once I knew what it would take to go completely cellphone free in my car, I could then make it work for our entire company."
Based on his experience, MacLennan offers these six simple steps for anyone looking to eliminate distracted driving yet stay productive and responsive to your job.
1. Auto response
Use a free automated response app to let callers know that you're driving and can't take the call. You can personalize the response so incoming calls or texts receive a text message saying you're on the road.
If you're driving a vehicle outfitted with communication technology, use its 'do not disturb' feature to unplug from calls and texts while behind the wheel.
3. Block drive times
Just as you schedule meetings, use shared calendars to block times you'll be driving. This alerts anyone else connected to your calendar when you'll be out of touch.
4. Out of sight, out of mind
A study by AT&T found that 62 percent of drivers keep their phones within reach in the car. Put yours where you can't see or reach it, such as in the back seat.
5. Pull over
If you must take a call while on the road, let it go to voicemail and pull over in a safe location to return the call. Plan pull-over "cellphone stops" along your route if needed.
6. Avoid all distractions
Cellphones aren't the only cause of distracted driving. Eating, grooming and reading are activities people try to tackle while driving. Be smart and simply stay focused on the road.
Driving safely should be everyone's top concern when behind the wheel. These simple steps can make it easier to resist the temptation to pick up the phone or do another activity that can wait until you've arrived, safely, at your destination.