The Facts about Distracted Driving
When it comes to distracted driving, The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates:
Cognitively distracted drivers can miss up to 50 percent of their driving environment, including stop signs, pedestrians and red lights;
Nearly 25 percent of all crashes involve drivers distracted by cell phones;
Drivers talking on cell phones –handheld or hands-free –are four times as likely to crash; and
Drivers who text increase their likelihood of a crash by 8 to 23 times.
Back in May, The Washington Post reported four separate accidents caused by a worker hitting another driver. Most of the accidents involved the workers using cell phones. The companies had to pay the victims more than $60 million, collectively.
Only five out of the 50 states have no laws banning texting while driving; five have a partial ban while the other 40 completely ban the act. States are taking the safety precaution; should employers follow suit? Should companies implement a distracted driving policy?
Using a cell phone while driving, for company communications or not, can be dangerous. Many companies give their employees cell phones, tablets or other devices to use for company communications. Although an employer cannot regulate what an employee does on his/her personal time, they can control what the employee does when using company devices on-the-clock. The NSC offers a guide to help employers create a distracted driving policy for employees.
An employer can legally be held responsible for an employee who was “acting within the scope of his or her employment” at the time of an accident. This includes employee-owned cell phones, equipment provided by an employer, employee and company-owned or leased vehicles, and times where employees are driving during non-working hours or were making personal phone calls.
In the event of an employee-related accident, the employer will have to provide phone usage records, texting records, and details about its distracted driving policy, if one exists. A guilty verdict or out-of-court settlement could end up costing a company millions. If accidents occur frequently, a company could shell out a significant amount of money to pay its employees’ negligence.
The NSC outlines a total employer cell phone ban, which covers handheld and hands-free devices, all employees, all vehicles, all company cell phone devices, and all work-related communications (including those taking place on a personal cell phone and/or in a personal vehicle). The bans should be 24/7. Companies need to educate its staff and employees on the facts about distracted driving, the importance of a policy, objectives of the new policy and its implementation. Be specific to ensure every employee understands the consequences of not adhering to the policy.
Why? The Council notes that companies who desire to maintain and protect their strong company cultures understand the importance of reducing risks in areas to protect employees and company communications. Banning cell phone use while driving for all employees is a reduction risk effort. It also puts a company in a better defensive position if an accident does occur because the company can show it has an enforced distracted driving policy.
The NSC provides a free downloadable employer cell phone policy kit. To download, click here.