How do I tell my driver I'm not okay with them talking on the phone?

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Why is it so hard for us to grasp that we don’t multitask, we task switch? And that while driving, any task that is not focused on piloting a 2,000-pound vehicle filled with flammable liquid is dangerous?

Webex announced in March 2022 that they were partnering with Ford to bring Webex meetings to Ford vehicles.

Security and safety are top priorities for both Ford and Webex, so we’re not only making sure the drivers and passengers are safe but also making sure we reduce distractions. The Webex solution only uses audio if deployed while driving. When your car is safely parked – you can get more robust Webex collaboration experiences, like secure video meetings, integrated audio, and content sharing (Kulkarni, 2022).

Webex is bringing the same (or similar) technology to Mercedes-Benz. “Meetings and calls are audio-only unless you're parked, in which case you'll have access to video meetings” (Holt, 2023).

While it is true that audio only is less of a distraction than audio and video, talking on the phone while driving—even if the phone is your car’s audio system—is still a distraction.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that in 2020 distraction played a role in 8% of fatal crashes (an estimated 3,142 people killed) and 14% of injury crashes (an estimated 324,652 people injured) (National Center for Statistics and Analysis, 2022).

When I started writing this post, I imagined that I would wrap it up with offering a suggestion for experimental design practice. But now that I’m here, I’m much more interested in what students are thinking.

Before covering selective attention, ask students via a clicker system (even the free

How comfortable would you be as a passenger in a vehicle where the driver was participating in a conference call for work.

  1. Very comfortable
  2. Somewhat comfortable
  3. Somewhat uncomfortable
  4. Very uncomfortable

After covering selective attention (including showing your favorite attention videos such as counting basketball passes, solving a whodunnit, being amazed by the colour changing card trick, or trying to find the changes in the Škoda Fabia car commericial), sharing the NHTSA data above, and discussing Webex’s partnerships with Ford and Mercedes-Benz, ask your students that same question again. How comfortable would students be?

Lastly, take a few minutes to help your students develop some language they can use the next time they find themselves a passenger in a vehicle with a distracted driver. As the instructor, role play the driver. Each student is to imagine themselves as a passenger in your vehicle. Set the scenario. You have just picked up your passenger and are giving them a 20-minute ride to work. You say, “I have a meeting starting in five minutes, so I’ll be doing that on our drive to your job.” Give students a couple minutes to consider ways they can respond, then invite students to share their responses in small groups. Finally, ask volunteers to share with the class the best responses generated by their groups.



Holt, K. (2023, February 27). Mercedes-Benz is bringing WebEx meetings to the new E-Class sedans. Engadget.

Kulkarni, A. (2022, March 31). Driving ahead with Webex. Webex Blog.

National Center for Statistics and Analysis. (2022). Distracted driving 2020 (DOT HS 813 309). National Highway Traffic Safety Admistration.


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About the Author
Sue Frantz has taught psychology since 1992. She has served on several APA boards and committees, and was proud to serve the members of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology as their 2018 president. In 2013, she was the inaugural recipient of the APA award for Excellence in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at a Two-Year College or Campus. She received in 2016 the highest award for the teaching of psychology--the Charles L. Brewer Distinguished Teaching of Psychology Award. She presents nationally and internationally on the topics of educational technology and the pedagogy of psychology. She is co-author with Doug Bernstein and Steve Chew of Teaching Psychology: A Step-by-Step Guide, 3rd ed. and is co-author with Charles Stangor on Introduction to Psychology, 4.0.