By Bill Tricarico
Sr. Risk Management Consultant
McNeil & Company
I’m glad the title didn’t stop you from reading the article. We continually hear about the dangers of distracted driving and last month was Distracted Driving Awareness Month. This article is not a month late though; I purposely waited just to show that we need to be aware of this problem 12 months a year, not just in April.
But as much as we hear of the dangers driving every day I see erratic driving behaviors of others obviously caused by phone calls and texting. Many states have issued laws against such actions but it hasn’t seemed to be a great deal of help. I was driving in New York last week and saw rest stops renamed “Text Stops.” And yet, I saw people driving and texting right past them.
According to the AAA Foundation, distracted driving causes about 8,000 accidents every single day! And the Center for Disease Control reports that more than 15 people are killed and 1,200 injured every day in those accidents. Delivery and service vans are not immune from those numbers.
So what does this all mean to you and your business? Plenty if you haven’t issued a policy banning hand held cell phone calls or texting while operating company vehicles or when your employees are working. We’ve seen successful and devastating lawsuits against companies whose drivers were texting and became involved in tragic accidents, some of them also resulting in punitive damages which in many states are not insurable losses. The lack of a policy has been construed a condoning cell phone use and will work against your business in court.
If you do not have a policy with regards to using the cell phone or texting while driving a company vehicle, you should institute one immediately and have all of your personnel who drive for the company read it and sign it. The policy should cover all areas of distracted driving such as avoiding paperwork while driving and GPS usage. Routes should also be planned out before setting out.
The policy should strictly prohibit the use of cell phones or similar devices while driving on company business or while driving a vehicle supplied by the company. It should also clearly spell out the penalties for failure to observe the policy up to and including termination.
As with any policy, you must write it, train your people, and enforce it. If you have-n’t done all three, your policy will most likely fail.
You expect your employees to multi-task all the time, but that should never be an option while they are behind the wheel.