End distracted driving, Lead by example

Posted in: Bridges, Highways


It’s an all too common scenario: you are driving in your car when you hear the familiar “ding” of an incoming text message. Traffic is heavy and you should keep your eyes on the road, but the urge to reach for your cell phone is too great. Do you resist the temptation and drive safely or do you cave in and risk causing a traffic accident? As leaders in the transportation industry, we need to set an example for safe driving practices by putting down our cells phones and paying closer attention to the road.

Get an app

To curb cell phone use, developers are creating apps to help cell phone users drive safer. Available for free on the Android market is DriveOff which automatically prevents incoming notifications and calls once the car reaches 10mph. An alternative is DriveScribe, a free app for both Apple and Android devices. When activated, the app silences incoming phone activity. The app also offers a point system incentive for responsible driving. Users can cash in their accumulated points and receive gift cards at major stores and retailers.

Buy smart

For those who travel long distances and need to respond to calls and texts on a regular basis, consider purchasing a vehicle with Bluetooth capabilities. The system enables your smartphone to sync with the car’s voice-activated controls. You can make phone calls and dictate texts messages by using simple voice commands. Many car companies now offer Bluetooth capabilities as a standard feature, but others may consider the option an upgrade. Check with your auto retailer to see if your car is eligible for this safe alternative.

When all else fails, turn it off

The urge to respond to phone notifications can be tempting. If this is the case, turn your phone off completely and place it in a location that is difficult to reach. When you’ve reached your destination, you can safely turn your phone on and return any calls or texts. It’s always best to err on the side of caution, keeping potential cell phone use at bay.

Why? Because it’s the law

According to the National Safety Council’s 2014 Injury Facts, cell phone use accounts for over one-fourth of all car accidents in the United States. Texting causes nearly 20 percent of these accidents while general cell phone use comprises the overwhelming majority. The rise of cell phone-related accidents has not gone unnoticed by state legislatures. Nearly all states have banned drivers from using cell phones in some capacity.

As engineers, planners and even citizens, it is our responsibility to advocate for all transportation laws and safety measures. As a first step in accountability, our company has taken a pledge to eliminate the use of electronic devices while at the wheel. If all transportation professionals take similar steps, we can help end phone-related car accidents together.


Mike Ciotola, PE

About the Author

Mike Ciotola, P.E., ASSOC. DBIA, makes sure safety is woven into complex transportation projects. In his more than 25 years of experience, Mike spent 13 years with the Ohio Department of Transportation. He gets the project done, whatever it takes. Mike helps clients design interchange modifications, roundabouts, and other roadway and bridge improvements, including work on multiple Safety Design Task Order contracts. Mike says “Safety is always integral to projects. We improve the quality of people’s lives by helping our clients to design safe roads.”

Read more posts by Mike Ciotola, PE

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