Although we often think of distracted drivers as being teens exchanging light-hearted banter via text messages, the truth is one of the major causes of distracted driving is the constant demand top stay connected at work. Employers expect their workers to be available at a moment’s notice – whether by email, text message or phone call. This creates a powerful and constant incentive for employees to be checking messages and responding to calls.
This is not only dangerous to employees, but also to the rest of us who share the road with them.
Although many company leaders are socially aware and mindful, they are also concerned about their bottom line. That’s why they push workers to maintain this level of availability. But it’s also why they may be receptive to a growing chorus of advocacy directed at the business community to reduce distracted driving. These types of crashes could make companies vulnerable to civil liability.
As CNN recently reported, a growing number of companies are enacting policies that ban workers from using their cell phones while they are driving. It’s estimated that every single day, eight people are killed and 1,000 injured in distracted driving crashes.
Our car accident injury attorneys know “distraction” in this case could mean anything from eating to grooming to talking to a passenger. However, cell phone use by drivers remains an ongoing problem, particularly for those in the business community.
The CNN report detailed how one former CEO is leading this charge, after his son was killed by a distracted driver. He is working to convince leaders at large corporations to enact these policies. If each organization employing 1,000 workers or more enacts these policies, the roads will not only be safer, but those habits could extend to those workers’ private lives and personal driving habits.
This same kind of approach worked with seat belts. Employers led the charge on this front, requiring employees to use them when traveling in cars. In turn, more people started wearing them on a regular basis. In the long-run, it served to shift public opinions and attitudes.
As the NSC noted, the liability risk for employees who text or talk and drive goes beyond just commercial carriers or those who drive for a living. If anyone causes injury to another while distracted behind the wheel while simultaneously acting in the course and scope of employment, the employer may find they are vicariously liable. That means the employer can be held responsible for such crashes, even if they weren’t directly negligent. Direct liability could be asserted in cases where the employer insisted that workers be available to receive and respond to work-related alerts behind the wheel.
An effective cell phone policy that follows best practices to reduce risk and minimize employer liability involves:
Handheld and hands-free devices:
- All employees
- All company vehicles
- All company cell phone devices
- All work-related communications – even while the employee is in a personal vehicle or using a personal cell phone.
Employers have the ability – and the responsibility – to effect change in this arena, especially because lives are at stake.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.
Distracted driving: Urging companies to crack down, April 4, 2017, By Kelly Wallace, CNN
More Blog Entries:
Florida Texting-Driving Laws Weak, Driving Up Auto Insurance Rates, March 18, 2017, Car Accident Attorney Blog