Staying safe in your rolling office

If you’re anything like me, you get a lot of work done in the car. Remember 20 years ago, when ice-age technology had us looking for a payphone just to say we’d won the Johnson account? Now we pass that message along from the car – and update our LinkedIn profile and tweet about the idiot lady behind us putting on her mascara.

I’m happy and proud to live in these magical times. Unfortunately for modern man, driving while working is more hazardous now because it’s harder than ever to spot the motorist who isn’t paying attention.  

So for those of us who have an auto-office, there are some important rules to follow to avoid becoming a statistic.

Rule No. One:

Slow down!  Wanting to keep up with traffic and maintain situational awareness is normal, but when your phone rings — take it easy. Let some space open up between you and the guy in front. By increasing your stopping distance to 900 yards during a phone call, you can be sure you’ll have time to react if he hits his brakes.

The easiest way I’ve found to gauge the correct distance is to put your right elbow onto the center console and drape your left wrist over the steering wheel. Done properly, the tip of your right pinkie finger touches your lips and your eyes no longer make contact with any rear-view mirrors.

For additional risk mitigation, stay in the lane you were in before the call since most accidents occur during side-to-side travel. And have you ever noticed how racy other drivers get when you downward-revise your travel speed? All those cars passing on the right makes lane-changing more risky than staying put until you’re nearly even with your exit.

Rule No. Two:

Allow plenty of time for stopping at yellow lights. You may have learned this skill pre-wireless when you collected your prize at the drive-thru window and wanted to get a nice relaxing burger bite in. Driving a car makes both eating and phone-work more cumbersome, so look for opportunities to stop the car.

And not just at yellow lights. With proper planning, you can slow down for a green light in time for it to turn yellow—and everyone knows that anticipating yellow lights can prevent an accident. If you’d like to really concentrate on your call (or enjoy that Whopper® sandwich), this tactic creates the calm environment suitable for getting the most out of life.

Rule No. Three:

Stop far enough back. Don’t waste time pulling up to the car ahead at a red light; feel free to glide to a halt fifty or a hundred yards back.

The benefits are two-fold:

  • It’s possible you’ll get to stop at the next red in the cycle (increasing your calm-bubble time);
  • Or at the very least your tardiness will alleviate traffic for everyone since, for each ten yards space, one fewer car will make it through the intersection on this cycle.

Your best bet at a signaled intersection is slowing down to be the last one through (so you have no lunatics behind you). Second choice is being the first to stop on a yellow. When it turns green again you can pretend you’re the Grand Marshall of an elaborate parade, and you can help all the floats control their speed.

Rule No. Four:

Ignore the road-rage. You have a job, and the proof is up against your ear. You are vital to the economy, so don’t let the insane gestures of obviously unemployed, no-phone-owning fellow motorists affect your portable cocoon experience.

The literature suggests you should pull out of traffic to conduct business, but it’s better to pretend the outer world doesn’t exist while you focus on pulling America out of this recession.

The monkeys clogging up the roads around you can relax a little bit; it isn’t like they need to get to the dollar store right this instant. The welfare office will still be open in five minutes. There comes a time in life when hard work by a few plucky industrialists can change the course of history. The time is now, and ‘the industrialist’ is you and me.

Remember: Combining work with driving a two-ton automobile is a smart use of time – as long as it’s done carefully.  We have people at home counting on us to make it to the dinner table tonight, so let’s be safe out there!