We’ve come a long way from the days of monstrous “car phones” that were first employed for business purposes in the 1980s.
Our car accident lawyers know that among all the distractions employers try to curb among workers, the use of cell phones behind the wheel is the most deadly.
Being that April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, employers should be concerned for the safety and well-being of workers, with the additional understanding that they could be held liable if one of their workers crashes while talking or texting while driving. The National Safety Council urges all employers to adopt cell phone policies that make it explicitly clear what they expect of workers when they are driving, bearing in mind that hands-free devices are just as dangerous as hand-held devices.
This is especially critical here in Florida, where we are one of just five states lacking any kind of legal restrictions on cell phone use or texting for motorists.
We know cell phone use quadruples the risk of a crash. We also know that many of those using cell phones in their vehicle during daylight hours are working. Employers have an important role and responsibility in reducing these numbers.
The NSC determined that the number of employers enacting cell phone policies has risen steadily since the late 1990s, for the most part keeping pace with the number of cell subscribers. In 1999, there were just 3 percent of NSC member companies that had cell phone policies. Fast-forward to a decade later, and 50 percent either had handheld or full cell phone bans. It’s climbed steadily since then, but we still have quite a ways to go.
Part of the problem is the perception among corporate administrators that productivity is going to decrease or that employees will be resistant to the policy.
However, the NCS found that simply wasn’t true. More than half said there was no impact on employee morale. About 62 percent said they had seen no change in productivity, and 10 percent even reported an increase in productivity. Just 2 percent reported a decrease.
Further, companies that fail to implement a cell phone policy – or worse, encourages cell phone use by its driving employees – opens itself up to the risk of expensive litigation and potentially losing some of its best workers. Liability may be increased in states that have legislated cell phone restrictions. While Florida doesn’t yet have this, there are five different bills currently in the pipeline hoping to address this loophole.
Employers seeking to implement a cell phone policy should clearly communicate to employees the “why” of the matter – that they care about each of them, and feel an obligation and a duty to do all they can to keep them safe.
Once a policy is enacted, employers should make sure that the education is ongoing, that employees understand the laws and the risks and that you are following up to ensure the policy is being obeyed.
Call Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.
Employer Liability and the Case for Comprehensive Cell Phone Policies, 2012, National Safety Council
More Blog Entries:
Father Pushes for Anti-Distraction Bill with Florida Lawmakers, Feb. 28, 2013, Indian River County Car Accident Lawyer Blog