by Warren Simonoff

The basic cell phone has morphed into a camera, PDA, GPS, MP3 player with assorted gadgets that rival a Swiss Army Knife. People often tool down the road with a Spock-like wireless earpiece discussing business or catching up with a friend. They don’t think they have a problem focusing on driving and connecting to the person on the call. However, with the split second timing needed to respond in an emergency, the experts say we need total focus to maximize reaction time.

Here’s my story

I was returning home from an errand with my wife. She was driving. Traffic was unusually bad. A meeting with a client was coming up. So I called from the car to tell him I was running a few minutes late. I wanted to talk about either delaying our start time or, if that didn’t work, rescheduling the appointment. He agreed, but after several minutes of scanning our calendars, he asked, “Are you driving?”

I said very matter-of-factly, “No, my wife is.”

The client exploded, “You violated me!”

I explained very calmly, “We’re only scheduling; she doesn’t know which client is on the phone and can’t even hear your side of the conversation.”

He slammed his phone down. I tried to contact him later from my home phone and email, but to no avail.

I have been thinking about other ways that conversation might have played out and how I can use the incident as a learning experience.

Lawsuits

Obviously, even in the general population car accidents do happen. A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) (see sidebar) outlines the dangers of driving coupled with the distractibility by cell phone usage. In my opinion, this is not only about the phone itself but about the conversation. Hands-free devises will not alleviate my concern nor is it endorsed by the Commission.

Going a step further, when an accident occurs and there is a lawsuit, one of the first questions an attorney asks is: “What were you doing at the time of the incident?” Also in more recent times, “Were you speaking on a cell phone during this incident?” Well, we know which road we’re going down by those questions. This could be particularly bad for clients (and coaches) with ADHD who are prone to distractability.

Coach-client or colleagues’ discussions require a high degree of concentration. If an accident occurred a coach might be found at least partially responsible either because of his or her own cell phone use, that of the client or both. Regardless of liability, injury is not the preferred outcome.

Coach-Client Agreement

In my Coach-Client Agreement I have added a clause as follows:

It is agreed by the Client and Coach that that they will not be in communication by cell phone while driving. Driver safety is paramount for the parties to this agreement. The National Highway Traffic Safety Commission studies have indicated that driving during cell phone usage…requires full attention and focus. Cell phone use can distract drivers from the task, risking harm to themselves and others. Therefore, the safest course of action is to refrain from using a cell phone while driving. www.nhtsa.gov

Consider adding something similar to your own contract. Then while reviewing the contract with the client, you can reinforce your concern. When the agreement is signed by both parties, it is clear and unequivocal.

Here’s what I do when I’m in the car:

Voice mail is a wonderful thing. When a client—or anyone, really—calls me while I’m driving, I just don’t pick up the phone. I can always pull over and check messages. When I return the call, I have that same opportunity to touch upon the danger of cell phone usage while driving.

The bottom line…as innocuous as it seems, it is, statistically speaking, an accident waiting to happen. Just ask the NHTSA.

Research Articles of Note

According to the NHTSA, in 2006, at any given daylight moment 745,000 vehicles were being driven by someone talking on a hand-held phone. Continue reading in this article

In this article published by Virginia Tech, “Drivers were studied while driving their own cars, under normal traffic conditions.” They learned, “Fatigue, distraction, and failure to pay attention ranked as the top three crash-causers.” Continue reading in this article.

According to Science Daily, “Nearly 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes involved some form of driver inattention within three seconds before the event. Primary causes of driver inattention are distracting activities, such as cell phone use, and drowsiness.” Continue reading in this article.


Warren Siminoff
Warren Simonoff, Progressive Coaching LLC, is an ADHD coach in Anthem, Arizona. You can reach him by email to: WarrenSimonoff@cox.net Or call him at: 623.826.8557