The Distraction of Electronic Devices
Everyone knows being distracted while driving a car is dangerous, but distractions on board a vessel are just as risky.
Personal electronic devices are everywhere. And everyone has one. Devices help mariners feel connected and less isolated during long hitches. However, these devices can also distract crewmembers and interfere with critical vessel activities.
The number one distraction when operating a vehicle is the cell phone. This is just as true for a vessel as it is in a motor vehicle. Texting is the most dangerous distraction. But how can we prevent distractions that are such a huge part of our lives? On average, adults use their cell phones to send or respond to text messages 94 times a day. And statistics show the average adult spends 50 minutes of total time per day texting.
Distracted Operations Cause Accidents, Danger & Damage
Distractions cause accidents. In 2016, a bulk carrier and towing vessels collided on the Mississippi River. After looking into the crash, investigators found that crew distracted by using mobile phones contributed to the collision. The damage was estimated at 60 million dollars. Fortunately, no personnel were injured. The repercussions could have been far more severe.
In a recent Safety Alert, the U.S. Coast Guard warned about the dangers of personal electronic devices on board. The alert cautioned that devices, unrelated to vessel operation, could impede critical operations by:
- Impeding the exchange of vital information
- Delaying reaction time and
- Causing attention lapses, resulting in serious unwanted circumstances
Why Multitasking Doesn’t Work
A lot of us think we are good at doing more than one thing at a time, but we aren’t. Research shows how bad we are at multitasking. Our brains can spread out our attention when we try to do more than one task at a time. However, what that actually means is that each task is receiving only part of our mental focus. We don’t give each task the full attention necessary to successfully and safely carry it out.
In other words, as the National Transportation Safety Board stated, “Contributing to the distraction problem is the widespread belief, by many, that they can multitask and still operate a vessel. But multitasking is a myth. Humans can only focus cognitive attention on one task at a time.”
Moxie’s Distracted Vessel Operations Program
Consistent policies on cell phone use and other distractions are another essential to reducing risk. But the most important way to reduce distractions is to consistently raise awareness. When crews understand why distractions are important to control, they will make better decisions. This program educates crewmembers on what they should be aware of when it comes to cell phones and other mobile devices on board.
This program discusses the dangers to vessel crew and equipment due to distractions during marine vessel operations. Specific topics include:
- Understanding the types of distractions
- Understanding the dangers of a distraction
- Identifying the commonplace distractions aboard a vessel
- Identifying the times during vessel operations where distractions are the greatest danger
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