The National Safety Council (NSC) is encouraging companies to begin implementing total bans on cell phone use while driving for all employees. How would that go over at your company?
Two years ago, the U.S. House designated each April as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
So the NSC is offering its Cell Phone Policy Kit to employers interested in implementing or enhancing a no-cell-phone-while-driving policy.
Some reasons why companies should consider such a policy:
- Inattention is involved in more than 16% of fatal vehicle crashes and 22% of injury crashes
- An estimated 1.6 million crashes are caused by drivers using cell phones and texting each year, and
- Motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 cause of worker fatalities.
The NSC recommends that company bans include all types of cell phone use while driving, including: texting, hand-held conversations and hands-free conversations.
Such comprehensive bans have been tough sells. No state bans all cell phone use (hand-held and hands-free) for all drivers, but many prohibit all cell phone use by certain drivers:
- 30 states and D.C. ban all cell phone use by novice drivers.
- Bus drivers in 19 states and D.C. may not use a cell phone when passengers are present.
- 35 states, D.C. and Guam ban text messaging for all drivers.
- Some states such as Maine, New Hampshire and Utah treat cell phone use and texting as part of a larger distracted driving issue.
Public opinion isn’t there yet, either. Only 43% of the public supported a total ban according to a AAA survey in 2009. Support for texting and hand-held bans are much higher.
But one factor that might drive businesses to act before state governments is liability.
At issue: Does workers’ comp coverage kick in when an employee is injured off-site while using a cell phone for company business? If so, that will increase workers’ comp rates.
Insurance companies will surely offer strong defenses against such claims. And there are few legal decisions on such cases.
However, some cases have already started going against companies and their insurance agents, such as one in North Carolina. A school principal was in his car, talking to a co-worker on a cell phone issued by his employer when he was shot in the face by someone in a passing vehicle.
A workers’ comp commissioner awarded benefits to the principal. On appeal, the full state workers’ comp commission upheld the decision. The school district appealed to a state court which has also upheld the decision.
What do you think about the NSC’s proposal that employers should prohibit their employees from using hand-held and hands-free cell phones while driving? Would employees in your company go along with that? Let us know what you think in the comments below.