Interview with Stacey Hanke: Electronic Communication While Driving

Man talking on cell phone in a car

Man talking on cell phone in a carI recently had the opptunity to interview Stacey Hanke — a Chicago consultant and speaker who focuses on communication — about our views and advice on using electronic communication devices while driving. This is a subject that we also feel strongly about and have written about in the past. But don’t take our word for it, read on for Stacey’s answers.

KJH: Hi Stacey – thanks for taking the time to speak with me. Well let’s get right into it. So, the thing I really wanted to focus on was your list of tips and guidance when using electronic devices while driving. You know there are a lot of people who spend a lot of time on the road for commuting, or for work. Let’s say they’re traveling salesmen, that sort of thing. And they feel really compelled to use their mobile devices, so they don’t feel they’re wasting their time driving, what do you say to that or to those people?

SH: Right, and I get it, because I’ve been there done it, cause I travel quite a bit for work where there’s time. But I don’t think driving is wasted time, so I think we need to put first and foremost things into perspective. We need to prioritize – driving and staying focused to respect my own life and everyone elses on the road, I think that’s priority number one. I think phone calls are different than actually texting as well as surfing the Internet, Tweeting, setting your Facebook status. If there is an urgent phone call that we need to do, use a headset; we have to go hands free. It’s programming our phone with important numbers prior to us getting behind the wheel. So it’s easy to access those phone numbers when we need to. But I think there‘s two separate things here – being on a phone call is different than texting, because texting, tweeting whatever it may be, it requires more of our attention. I’m not saying being on a phone call isn’t, because you’re still focused on that attention, but I think if there’s something urgent that that phone call is a priority, then that needs to be handled and my first best option is to always pull over to the side of the road and take that phone call. The next best solution is to use a headset.

KJH: Okay, so there are more than a few states and cities that made it illegal to hold a phone and drive.

SH: Yes.

KJH: But not to use a head set. Do you feel, well obviously based on your past answer, you’re okay with using a headset? Do you think they should go further, in terms of things like texting or even just holding a phone while looking at it, and not only holding it up to your head?

SH: I don’t. I think studies continuously show us that multi-tasking, we still cannot do it. I constantly hear my audience members who are younger in the generation now entering the work force saying, well I grew up multi-tasking so yes I can do it. Yet when you look at all the studies that are out there, they’re still showing, we cannot, no matter what generation we are in, we cannot multi-task. Meaning, I think the definition of multi-tasking is we cannot do two things effectively. And then when you’re talking about driving and texting, now you’re talking about two things that actually require your focus as well as your focus of where you’re looking. Are you looking at the phone, are you paying attention of what’s going on around you? You know it’s not just about our own safety; it’s about everyone else that’s on the road out there. A prime example of that, in Chicago, where I’m located, it is law that you cannot be using a phone without a headset. And they’ll be times that, either I’m next to someone on the road or behind them, and just from looking at their level of skill, you know that they’re on the phone and sure enough when you pass them they’re on the phone. And whether they’re just not stopping fully at stop lights, or they’re not driving straight, it’s really starting to raise a big issue, a safety issue.

KJH: Right and I agree with you actually, so here’s a follow up question. And so in my home state of California, it’s been a law for three years now almost.

SH: Uh huh.

KJH: But I still see people every day driving and holding a phone. And, so do you think that they should be, they meaning the state government should be, actively enforcing the law?

SH: Yes. I do, I really, really do. Only because now more than ever – and I can remember when you first started seeing people use the phone. And the only way that it’s going to be taken serious, I think, is if law enforcement cracks down harder on it.

KJH: Of course you know, there are lots like yourself who talk about this issue and provide great guidance on the subject, but what do you think we really need to do in order to get people to practice safer driving habits, as far as electronic devices go?

SH: I think smoking has decreased because we’ve seen the proven reality of what happens through video. And I think until people really see what can happen, and the only way I think that that can be done is through video, and whether that’s through commercials – perhaps even a huge government marketing campaign – I don’t think anything will stop it. In addition, I think it needs to piggyback with law enforcement.

KJH: Here’s a more personal question: have you had a lot of luck convincing your friends and family to follow this advice?

SH: Yes and no. [laughs] Definitely some, and if anyone would ever text me while I know they’re driving I’ll never respond to them, and, you know, question them afterwards, but everyone takes their own behavior into their own hands, and I think until people really realize the level of severity, people aren’t going to stop.

SH: And my friends and family are just like everyone else in society, some of them have definitely taken it seriously and have stopped the texting, and others, I know they’re still texting me when they’re driving, because I’ll know that they’re driving, I know where they’re at, if they’re meeting me somewhere, and the one thing that, you know, the least of what I can do is not respond, ’cause I don’t want them looking at that received text, nor trying to respond to my text I sent to them.

KJH: Let’s talk gadgets. Do you have any favorite software or apps on your phones that, that you use to help you mitigate your having to interact with the phone?

SH: I – and this sounds arrogant – don’t feel like I need an app to help me do that. You know, just the natural discipline of not texting when I’m driving is – is enough for me not to do it.

SH: I guess I just look at the topic like this: I just don’t see anything that is that important that it cannot wait for either: A.) to reach your destination or B.) pull to the side of the road and respond. Then we are getting into a whole new topic of really prioritizing. To me that’s what texting and driving is, it’s prioritizing what you need done meaning via text, via Facebook, Twitter, whatever it may be before you get into the car. Get it taken care of. It’s about doing one thing at a time.

KJH: Yes, I agree. Those were all the questions I had. Do you have any other thoughts or closing comments?

SH: I wish you and I could just conquer the world and get people to stop doing it! My real fear is I’m thinking about it from the perspective as a parent. And I’m not a parent but I’m thinking there have been times when I’ve seen parents texting on the phone while their kids are in the back seat. And I think so now they are setting an example for that child at a very young age to have gadgets in their hand and that it’s ok to text while driving.

KJH: I agree. I have a small daughter.

SH: Oh you do how old?

KJH: She’s one.

SH: Fun! Congratulations.

KJH: Thank you. Well I already see at home now – it doesn’t matter what it is, anything I have she wants.

SH: Yes, you are such a role model for her. I don’t have children of my own but my niece just turned two and I see how she is; if any of us are on our cell phones, she wants it. I think that’s another serious issue of what kind of example we are setting for our kids. Just one last example: I was walking down the streets of Chicago the other day and there was a mother and her child, I would guess he was seven years old. She’s walking while she was on her phone, and he’s walking while he is on a cell phone as well. Oblivious to anything that is going on around them.

We would like to thank Stacey for her time. Stacey is the owner of 1st Impression Consulting and is the co-author of the book “Yes You Can! Everything You Need From A to Z to Influence Others to Take Action