Behind The Wheel

By Frank Bisbee | Apr 15, 2013
industry watch icon flat.jpg
Web Exclusive Content




The integrated systems contractor, collectively, is one of the most mobile workforces in the United States. Plus, these contractors are connected to an active network of business and personal communications through cellular or smartphone wireless devices. Many installers carry two cellphones (one for work and one for personal use). This year, some experts believe that 4,500–6,000 employees will die from workplace injuries. Those statistics include deaths and injuries resulting from worker-related automotive accidents (travel to, from and during the job.)

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the following work-related incidents resulting in death for 2011:
• Transportation—1,075
• Falls—666

Some reactions to new laws to improve safety on the highway are uninformed (e.g., negative reactions to a ban on texting while driving). It takes only a few seconds to read a text message and then shoot back a five-word response. If you don’t text in heavy traffic or bad weather, you will be OK. Cellphone calls can go on for several minutes, and people also spend more time eating in cars than it takes for a text message. Today, we have massive data showing that texting distraction have lethal results. Cellphone usage still represents a hazard, but hands-free devices reduce the distraction factor.

The potential crackdown also has stimulated research aimed at making technology more driver-friendly. In the car of the future, a driver could keep both hands on the wheel while giving verbal commands to operate communications devices, even dictating emails and text messages.

"Within the next decade, your vehicle is going to be as connected to such electronic services as your home or office," said James Carlini, a well-known communications consultant and technology visionary. “The big question remains: When will the technology-makers make it safe for the road?"

"You are just an accident waiting for a place to happen when you text message while you drive," said Michelle Shannahan, vice president of operations at Communication Planning Corporation, Jacksonville, Fla. “Any competent driving instructor will tell you the same thing. Unfortunately, the highway casualty count continues to rise, while we fail to ban texting while driving. Just watching some drivers, talking on their cellphones and not paying attention to the traffic, is upsetting."

Many firms and individuals in the cabling industry are going hands-free to reduce driver distraction while handling calls. Bluetooth and speakerphone technology leave both hands free to handle the wheel and keep maximum focus on the road. Texting is still a big no-no while driving.

44 states say no to texting while driving
Talking on a hand-held cellphone while driving is banned in 10 states (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Washington, and West Virginia) and the District of Columbia. The use of all cellphones by novice drivers is restricted in 33 states and the District of Columbia; the use of all cellphones while driving a school bus is prohibited in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Text messaging is banned for all drivers in 39 states and the District of Columbia. In addition, novice drivers are banned from texting in five states (Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas), and school bus drivers are banned from text messaging in three states (Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas).

Many localities have enacted their own bans on cellphones or text messaging. In some states, local jurisdictions need specific statutory authority to do so. Most states have primary or secondary laws dealing with cellphones. Some specifically ban text messaging. (Under secondary laws, an officer must have some other reason to stop a vehicle before citing a driver for using a cellphone. Laws without this restriction are called primary.)

The AAA recommends the following tips for using your cellphone in your car or truck (

• Don't use a cellular phone while driving, but if you must, continue with this list.
• Familiarize yourself with the features of your cellphone before you get behind the wheel.
• Use the cellphone only when absolutely necessary. Limit casual conversations to times when you're not trying to safely operate a motor vehicle.
• Plan your conversation in advance, and keep it short, especially in hazardous conditions such as bad weather or heavy traffic.
• Let the person you're speaking with know you are in a vehicle.
• Do not engage in emotional conversations while trying to drive. Pull off the road to a safe spot before continuing this type of conversation.
• Do not combine distracting activities, such as talking on your cellphone while driving, eating and tending to a child.
• Use message-taking functions, and return calls when you are stopped at a safe location.
• Ask a passenger in the car to place the call for you and, if possible, speak in your place.
• Secure your phone in the car so that it doesn't become a projectile in a crash.

I could lists thousands of pages on information to make your workplace safer, but I suggest starting with a personal commitment to make safety the top priority.

"You cannot talk about safety without mentioning the safety motto of the Bell System that was established decades ago," James Carlini said. "No job is so important and no service is so urgent that we cannot take time to perform our work safely."

About The Author

Frank Bisbee is with Communication Planning Corp., a telecom and datacom design/build firm. He provides a free monthly summary of industry news on

featured Video


Why Vive Lighting Controls - The Benefits of Wireless

Vive by Lutron is a simple, scalable, wireless lighting control solution designed to meet today’s energy codes and budgets in both new and existing commercial buildings. Vive wireless systems install up to 70% faster than wired solutions, saving time, money, and labor costs.


Related Articles