Is It Smart for Employers to Ban Smartphones While Driving?

Social Media

Regardless of what state your business is in, if you have employees who drive as part of their jobs, your employee handbook must address cell phone use. Drivers interacting with cell phones have a significantly higher risk of being involved in a crash, mostly caused by reaching for, answering or dialing a cell phone; and, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, the risk of an accident is five times higher for drivers who are texting.  With thousands of fatalities each year due to distraction-related accidents, and nearly half of all drivers admitting to reading texts or emails while driving, the risk is palpable.

Nationwide, lawsuits against companies whose distracted employees cause accidents is one of the fastest-growing areas of litigation.  The focal point of corporate liability has been on whether the employer has a policy prohibiting cell phone use while driving.  The argument to the jury – usually with horrific photos of victims, or injured people in wheelchairs in the court room – is that “if only the company had a policy, this might have all been prevented.”  A rational reaction might be that there is no way to know this, and/or your state bans cell phone use while driving already.  However, when faced with the known risk of using cell phones while driving and the reality of the damage caused, it is hard for a company to argue that they have a policy about misusing social media or vaping at work, but they did not think it important to ban cell phone use while driving.

Your Company Needs a Policy

Regardless of whether you issue cell phones to employees, or whether they are driving company vehicle, if your employees drive to perform their job duties, you know they have a cell phone, and you have to assume that they are using it to assist in their job duties.  Therefore, you need a comprehensive cell phone policy to mitigate the risk of liability when they get in an accident.  Here is a good example:

Employees are prohibited from using cell phones for work-related matters while driving. We are concerned for your safety and for the safety of others sharing the roadways, and using a cell phone while driving can lead to accidents.  If you must have a work-related call while driving, you must wait until you can pull over safely and stop the car before placing your call.

What if the Employee HAS to Use Their Smartphone while Driving?

The foregoing works for employees who the company suspects are using their phone while driving, but what if the company knows they are doing that, or to make matters worse, the company either issued the employees the phones, or reimburses the employees for their personal phone use, because the employees have to use smart phones to navigate, access relevant apps, and contact customers while driving?  In other words, how does a company protect itself in the gig economy (particularly if all its independent contractors are now deemed employees)?

First thing is – you still need a policy; it just needs to focus on hands-free cell phone use.  No state (not even California) has banned adult, experienced drivers from using hands-free or blue tooth devices while driving.  If you require employees to use smart phones, however, you need to provide or pay for appropriate hands-free equipment, and make sure employees are told how and where to set up their phone in their vehicle so as to minimize distraction from the wheel and the road (i.e. they need a mounting bracket that puts the phone on or near the top of the dashboard without occluding their view).  Then check your state and local laws to make sure you are in compliance, and add language onto your cell phone policy similar to the following:

Employees are permitted to use hands-free equipment to handle calls and may use approved apps (but never that involve entering text manually) while driving, without violating this policy. However, safety must always be the first priority. Use of the phone must be minimized and must never distract you from driving.  If for any reason, you are unable to concentrate fully on the road, you must discontinue use of the phone, pull over and safely park your vehicle before resuming use of your smart phone.

You cannot prevent car accidents, but you can take steps to keep your employees safe and to minimize the risk to your business when the inevitable happens.



Add Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Elon Musk
The 20 Best Elon Musk Quotes That Apply to Business
Pennsylvania
How to Apply for a Small Business Loan in Pennsylvania
John Hussman
10 Things You Didn’t Know about John Hussman
Thomas Paine
The 20 Best Thomas Paine Quotes That Apply to Business
Oregon
How to File for Unemployment in Oregon
Oklahoma
How to File for Unemployment in Oklahoma
North Dakota
How To File for Unemployment in North Dakota
North Carolina
How to File for Unemployment in North Carolina
Historic Railpark And Train Museum
The 20 Best Things to do in Bowling Green, KY for First Timers
Explore Falls Park
The 20 Best Things to Do in Sioux Falls for First Timers
Idaho State Museum
The 20 Best Things to do in Boise, ID for First Timers
Connecticut River Museum
The 20 Best Things to do in Mystic CT for First Timers
2020 Mazda CX-9 back
10 Things You Didn’t Know About the 2020 Mazda CX-9
2023 Mercedes-Benz GLC
10 Things You Didn’t Know About The 2023 Mercedes-Benz GLC
2021 BMW M5
10 Things You Didn’t Know About The 2021 BMW M5
2021 Mercedes S-Class exterior
10 Things You Didn’t Know about The 2021 Mercedes S-Class
Bell & Ross BR 03-92 MA-1
10 Things You Didn’t Know about Bell & Ross BR 03-92 MA-1
Dietrich Perception Watch
10 Things You Didn’t Know About The Dietrich Perception Watch
Horage Autark Ten Year
10 Things You Didn’t Know About The Horage Autark Ten Year
Nite Icon 216 Automatic Ref1
The 10 Best Nite Watches That Money Can Buy
Shannon Sharpe
How Shannon Sharpe Achieved a Net Worth of $12 Million
Hans Zimmer
How Hans Zimmer Achieved a Net Worth of $200 Million
Kandi Burruss
How Kandi Burruss Achieved a Net Worth of $30 Million
Kawhi Leonard
How Kawhi Leonard Achieved A Net Worth of $35 Million