Realistic Guide to Cell Phone Use While Driving – The ‘Best Driver Setup’

By: Jim Ramirez

Every driver has different needs while on the road, but staying connected is important for just about everybody. There are also times when it could be helpful, or even required, for a driver to use and engage with their phone while on the road. Although the safest recommendation would be to completely lock the phone away, out of sight, turned off, with no chance of distraction, it can be hard to entirely eliminate cell phone use while driving, especially if communicating via phone from the company car is part of your job. But with a few helpful tips and recommendations, you can easily minimize distracted driving while staying productive.

The ‘Best Driver Setup’ Recommended for Fleets and Families

Whether you’re driving for work, driving the kids to school, or even joy-riding, there is a proper way to go about your daily driving safely and efficiently. Everyone has different cars, different phones, different reasons for driving, and different levels of required connectivity, but the dangers of distracted driving don’t discriminate. And let’s not forget that there are also texting and driving laws in almost every state that restrict phone use while behind the wheel, regardless of your personal scenario.

Keeping the dangers as well as the need for connectivity in the real world in mind, here is the best driver setup that we recommend at MOTOVATE for minimizing distractions while maximizing productivity, performance, and safety.

Using Maps and Navigationphone use while driving

We all wish we knew exactly where we were going all of the time – but let’s face it, looking at your phone to follow a map to your destination has become a big part of driving for many. While it may be necessary for navigation, it can still be extremely distracting (though maybe less-so than opening a giant paper map that covers the whole windshield).

Recommendation: Set your destination ahead of time, and use a phone dock mounted high on the dash.

If you have to use maps and navigation, use a phone dock that places the map on the screen high up on the dashboard. This minimizes the distance the driver needs to shift visual attention. The phone should also be set to stay awake so you won’t need to manually intervene to see the map (or, charging while driving will keep most phones awake). Of course, plugging in the phone, mounting it on the dash, and typing in your destination should all be done prior to even starting the car. Take a look at your route as well, to ensure it is correct and clear to you before you begin driving.

Making and Taking Phone Calls

As mentioned before, absolutely no phone use behind the wheel is the safest. But, for as often as we drive and as often as people call us, it’s better to have a safe plan for answering calls than to fall victim to the temptation of picking up the phone when it rings unexpectedly. And in corporate fleet settings where communication on the road is critical to the efficiency of the fleet, employers should not only suggest a plan, but have a clear policy for how drivers should stay safe while also staying connected.

Recommendation: Minimize the requirement to take phone calls while driving. If you absolutely need to, use a comfortable and easy-to-use hands-free system.  

using a cell phone while drivingIf using a cell phone while driving to make and take phone calls is critical, use a hands-free system that is enjoyable and convenient. Although it has been shown that using hands-free does not reduce distraction and is still considered unsafe, it is legal. This recommendation to use a hands-free device comes hesitantly, because no phone call is worth a life, but when the reality of distracted driving rears its head, we recommend you have a plan. 

Using speakerphone to make calls, however, is not recommended. Speakerphone is not intended to replace hands-free systems for driving, it is meant to allow other people to listen in on the conversation, and a call that is difficult to hear over speakerphone can present additional distraction from driving.

Listening to Music or Entertainment

While it is true that listening to music while driving can be distracting in a number of ways (even more so for young, inexperienced drivers), nearly everyone listens to music in their car (at least 90%!). Interestingly, research has shown that to some extent, music can have a positive effect on drivers by relieving boredom, calming stress, and even improving concentration in certain scenarios.

Recommendation: Set your music beforehand, choose ‘safe’ music, don’t play it too loudly, and always focus on the task of driving first.

If you want to play music using a cell phone while driving safely, there are a few specific rules to follow. Always select your station or playlist before you begin driving, and stick with it (or pull over to change it!). And make your music selections consciously – aggressive music or songs with a fast tempo have a negative effect, whereas calm or soothing selections can have a positive effect. Now, your first driving-music choice may not be soft jazz, but you can keep volume and tempo in mind within your own prefered genre. But the most important rule is to remember that driving is first – you should never remember more of what’s happening in a song than what’s happening on the road.

Being Productive While Commutingcell phone use while driving

Maximizing productivity while behind the wheel is important, especially if you have a long daily commute, but it can’t come at the sacrifice of safety. There are a few simple ways drivers can take advantage of the time spent commuting for self-improvement or other productive activities, while still remaining focused on the road.

Recommendation: Effective voice-to-text note taking and subscriptions to can be useful ways to spend the commute – but can always be replayed when your concentration must stay on the road!

Learning from podcasts and audio-books (which could be used for entertainment as well) is one example of productive cell phone use while driving. Though, similar to listening to music, all audio should be kept at a reasonable volume and at second priority to driving – you can always re-play a podcast, you can’t re-play your reactions on the road. If necessary, voice-to-text programs for brainstorming, taking notes, and planning out a day can also add productivity to long commutes. Make sure these work well for you before driving though, so you don’t have to stop and double-check the accuracy of the text being converted. Note that these “light” activities are either self-paced or evenly paced, demand a low level of attention, and do not require a response (like a hands-free phone call). But they can still be just as cognitively distracting – your productivity on your commute won’t matter, if you never make it to the office. 

Avoiding Unnecessary Dangers & Setting an Example

cell phone use while drivingEven if you follow all of these recommendations for safer cell phone use while driving, you will still be tempted with distractions and the ever-alluring FOMO (fear of missing out). To avoid your instinctual response to text messages and notifications that really do not require your attention, download one of the many solutions to texting and driving. If you want to ensure that your company fleet is protected with a driving wellness program, contact us at Motovate

Recommendation: Get Motovate!

If you consciously work towards driving wellness and make it known to others, you may not only save your own life, but the lives of others as well. The reality is that we live in a hyper-connected world where jobs and families need our attention – which is all the better reason to stay safe on the road and arrive at your destination alive!



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