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Friday
Aug072009

Texting While Driving – Not Just for Kids Anymore

While driving down a major arterial, it was surprising to see a middle-aged man in the car next to me looking at a cell phone with his arm at maximum extension trying to read the screen without glasses, texting a response and driving at the same time. Although much has been written about the dangers of teenagers texting while driving, evidently middle-aged people do the same, even without their reading glasses.

As an employer, there are steps you must take to prevent employee accidents while driving for your business and to prevent liability claims.

Employees driving business vehicles also text while driving. Although I won’t mention any names, one of the vehicles was a big brown delivery truck. The driver could clearly be seen through the open door typing a text message on a device he was holding in the center of the steering wheel. He was looking at the device, not the road.

Recent studies indicate the risk created by employees texting while driving. One study shows that over one in four cell phone users admit to texting while driving. It’s not limited to just young drivers. Although almost 60% of those between the ages of 16-19 admit to texting while driving, half of those between the ages of 20-29 admit to doing the same. For those over 50, 13% admit to texting while driving.

Other studies show that the risk of a collision is 23 times greater when texting than when not texting. By comparison, using a cell phone when driving increases the risk of a collision about 6 times. As common sense would suggest, texting while driving is significantly more dangerous than using a cell phone while driving.

If one of your employees is in an accident while conducting your business, you may be liable. It is a near certainty that the attorney for the other side will subpoena phone records to determine whether the driver was using a cell phone or texting while driving. If so, you could pay dearly.

Congress is considering laws requiring states to ban texting while driving. Some states already have done so. Although the last Oregon legislature outlawed using a cell phone while driving, except with hands-free devices, the law does not address texting while driving.

To prepare for future changes in the law, to prevent employee accidents and to prevent liability in the event of an accident, you should:

1) Adopt policies specifically prohibiting texting while driving.

2) Communicate your policy in writing to all employees who drive or may drive within the scope of their employment.

3) Add your policy to your employee handbook.

4) Enforce your policy if you learn of any employee texting while driving on company business.

By following these steps, you may just prevent a texting while driving auto accident. If an accident does occur, these steps could be the cornerstone of your legal defense.

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Reader Comments (1)

Thanks for the new Brief! I have missed them lately and just last week went to the website to see if there were any new ones! And what a great reminder, something to add to our employee meeting this week!
August 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTani

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