Driving is dangerous enough by itself – and with rush hour traffic all day long, tight schedules and all kinds of cars, trucks and motorcycles trying to change lanes in front of you, it’s even worse.

  • The National Safety Council reports that “Highway incidents remain the leading cause of occupational death” – estimated at 35% to 40% of all work fatalities.
  • When you add cell phones to driving as an added distraction, you have a killer formula. The NSC again: “… driving while talking on a cell phone puts drivers at a four-times greater crash risk.”
  • Texting or emailing while driving causes these statistics to skyrocket – up to 23-times greater collision risk.

Employers can be Liable

Many businesses encourage workers to be connected and available at all times.  Customers insist on fast answers, and after-hours questions and calls have become the norm. These expectations dictate employee behavior and can make employers liable for auto accidents, injuries and deaths – even during off hours.

Recent examples have employers settling lawsuits for:

  • $4 million: an off-duty police officer was texting before a fatal crash that killed a college student
  • $5.2 million: an employee was speeding and talking on a company-issued cell phone when he rear-ended a woman who lost her arm in the accident
  • $21.6 million: an employee in a company vehicle ran a red light while talking to her husband on a cell phone at the time of the fatal crash.

[Sources: Bureau of National Affairs,www.bna.com; www.nolo.com]

“Most employers don’t realize they’re exposing more of their corporate assets than in any other way” when employees drive on business, says a representative of Liberty Mutual Insurance. The annual cost to businesses of auto accidents and cell phone use is estimated at more than $60 billion.

Make an Impact

While it may be unrealistic to eliminate all cell phone use while driving, here are several measures that will promote safety and protect you as an employer:

  • Update driving policies: A well-written policy – that is enforced – can significantly improve safety and minimize your liability.
    • Define and limit work-related cell phone use while driving.
    • Regularly explain your policy – tell everyone about the safety concerns.
    • Employees who are “on call” can check in before leaving or after arriving at the next appointment.
    • Provide defensive driving courses for all employees.
  • Set the example –
    • Minimize/eliminate your conversations while driving. Don’t answer in heavy traffic; ask others to keep it short and send you an email so you don’t have to take notes.
    • Notice when the person you are calling is driving and schedule a call for later or send an email.
  • Insist your employees and co-workers do the same – for their safety and your own. Not only can you lose a key employee, but you can be liable for all bodily injury and property damages caused.

Have a safety question or insurance concern?  Email or give me a call – but not from your car! There’s never an obligation and I’d be pleased to hear from you.

 (510-685-3883 | charles@risksmartsolutions.com)