As a business owner, you protect your company with liability insurance, workers’ compensation insurance and computer security. But do you have a cell phone policy? One employee’s bad distracted driving accident could tarnish your brand and harm your bottom line.
The latest dashboard technology and 24-7 connectivity make it tempting to conduct business from a vehicle. But your business can be liable when an employee causes an accident while using a cell phone in the course and scope of employment, even if the employee uses her personal phone from her own car.
With an estimated 25% of crashes caused by cell phone use, the risk is real. Talking on a cell phone, even hands-free, increases the crash risk 4x – the same as driving drunk. Texting increases the crash risk by 23x. One text or call can wreck it all. Consequences for businesses include civil liability for personal injury or wrongful death, punitive damages (which are not covered by insurance), property damage, loss of a license, OSHA penalties, insurance rate hikes (liability and workers’ compensation), productivity loss, and brand damage. Your employee may also face manslaughter charges when texting while driving kills someone; there have been prosecutions in multiple states. Next: expect prosecutions for reckless phone use.
Recognizing the risk, more companies are seeing the benefit of adopting policies. OSHA requires employers to create safe working environments and suggests a clear and enforceable policy against texting while driving. Companies can be fined up to $70,000 per violation for requiring employees to text while driving, or structure work so that texting is a practical necessity to do their jobs.
Educating Your Workforce
Consider adopting a cell phone policy prohibiting cell phone use while driving in the scope of employment and requiring employees to pull over and stop in safe place before using a mobile device. Educating employees, having them sign and acknowledge the policy, and adjusting the culture are good first steps. As temptations to drive distracted increase, the onus is on every business owner to consider addressing employees’ cell phone use behind the wheel. Doing so will not only help keep your employees safe, it also helps protect the profitability of your business.
This guest blog post was submitted by Wayne Hogan, president of the Terrell Hogan Law Firm in Jacksonville. The Terrell Hogan Distracted Driving Awareness Campaign offers free For the Workforce presentations to area businesses. Visit www.terrellhogan.com for more.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. You may wish to contact your own attorney to assist with implementing a company policy.