One-Third of Drivers Feel Obliged to Take Work Calls

Using phones while driving is currently the leading cause of driver distraction crashes in California

By R. Stickney
|  Wednesday, Apr 10, 2013  |  Updated 2:22 PM PDT
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One-Third of Drivers: Work Calls Are a "Must"

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A third of drivers feel they must answer a work-related call while driving according to survey results released in San Diego Wednesday.

Even though studies have shown calling and driving increases the risk of a traffic accident, 31-percent of those surveyed by UC San Diego researchers say they feel obliged to answer their phone if it’s a call having to do with work.

“Employers should be aware that encouraging workers to initiate and receive calls while driving on the job is putting their employees at risk and exposing their companies to potential liability,” said Linda Hill, MD, MPH, clinical professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine.

Hill worked with the Training, Research and Education for Driving Safety (TREDS) program to conduct a survey on the driving habits of San Diego County residents, ages 30 to 64.

Four years after California banned the use hand-held mobile phones and devices while driving, 56-percent of those surveyed reported driving while talking on a handheld phone.

That number may explain why law enforcement officers issued more than 400,000 tickets for distracted driving in 2012. That's a 31 percent jump over 2009, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety.

Most respondents, 92-percent, said they drive with a hands-free phone. The National Safety Council cites more than 30 research studies that show hands-free phone use is not safer than hand-held phone use.

“Studies have shown that phoning and driving increases the risk of crashes four-fold, with hands-free and handheld devices equally dangerous,” Hill said.

“Texting increases this risk eight to 16 times,” she said.

When researchers revealed the research Wednesday, they said the results suggest that even a child passenger will not prevent adults from texting or talking on the phone.

Most of those drivers with children younger than 11-years-old in the car, say they drive with a cell phone. Thirty-six percent say they text. Almost the same number of adults with preteens or teens in the car say they text while 63-percent say they will use a phone.

Adults with children younger than 11-years-old in the car were significantly more likely to text and to talk on a handheld phone.

More than 700 people completed the online questionnaire. Most were female. The average age of the respondent was 46.

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