Zoom and Teams meetings have become a pandemic success story.

However, as work pressures overlap with home life, more unsuccessful stories are beginning to appear.

In the latest call out, an Ohio state senator has been forced into an emergency stop.

Using a virtual background of his home office on a Zoom meeting, some others realised not all was normal.

It was an apparent attempt to conceal the fact that he was driving during a Zoom meeting. It all occurred on the same day a bill to ban distracted driving was introduced.

Andrew Brenner almost succeeded in fooling the meeting with the state’s controlling board. However, his seatbelt strapped across his chest, glimpses of the road behind him and the constant turning of his head as he changed lanes gave him away.

Legal limits

The footage of the meeting, streaming live to the public via the state’s broadcaster, came on the same day Ohio legislators introduced a bill to crack down on dangerous driving. This includes introducing penalties for texting and livestreaming while behind the wheel.

At the start of the video conference of the board, Brenner appeared in a parked car. A few minutes later, he left the call before reappearing with a different background featuring wooden cabinets, hanging artwork and a houseplant.

The Republican representative for Columbus, continued to participate in the call. Listening and responding to questions while keeping his eyes mostly on the road ahead, the background faltered, revealing glimpses of the view from the driver-side window.

In con-trol

Brenner denied that he was driving unsafely. He told The Columbus Dispatch he “wasn’t distracted” during the meeting. Instead he says he was “paying attention to the driving and listening to” the discussion.

“I wasn’t distracted. I was paying attention to the driving and listening to it [the meeting],” he said. “And I’ve actually been on other calls, numerous calls, while driving. Phone calls for the most part, but on video calls, I’m not paying attention to the video. To me, it’s like a phone call.”

Leading by example

The incident coincided with the introduction of a bill penalising unsafe driving. It makes both the holding and use of an electronic device while driving a primary offence.

The state’s Republican governor, Mike DeWine, said in a press statement last year: “Ohio’s current laws don’t go far enough to change the culture around distracted driving, and people are dying because of it.

“Distracted driving is a choice that must be as culturally unacceptable as drunk driving is today, and strengthening our current laws will lead to more responsible driving.”

Tech traps

Brenner’s multitasking joins the growing ranks of professionals who have pushed the boundaries of acceptable Zoom behaviour.  These range from the morally precarious to the downright hilarious.

Last month, Rebecca Saldaña, a Democratic state senator in Washington, apologised after joining a Zoom hearing while driving. In February, a California plastic surgeon came under an ethics investigation after appearing at a virtual traffic court hearing from an operating theatre.

Meanwhile, the Canadian MP William Amos apologised after appearing stark naked during a virtual parliamentary session last month. Covering his private parts with a phone, he stood between the flags of Quebec and Canada. It seems his laptop camera accidentally turned on during the call.

In another incident, a Texas lawyer was unable to undo a Zoom filter during a hearing and had to inform the judge that he was not a cat.