It should be one of the most basic principles of driving: Keep your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. When my mother was teaching me to drive, she worried (and took what seemed like every opportunity to remind me) that diversions like changing the radio station or talking to friends in the car could distract me to the point of driving off the road into a ditch . . . or worse. Luckily for my mother's sanity and our mother/daughter relationship (love you, mom!), she didn't have to worry about cell phones at that time (yes, I just dated myself).
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 5,474 people were killed and 448,000 were injured in accidents involving a distracted driver in 2009. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is so concerned with distracted driving that it has a website, www.distraction.gov, dedicated to the subject. The DOT has teamed up with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to focus on educating employers about employees' distracted driving. OSHA has now officially declared texting while driving a workplace hazard and an OSHA violation. In its recent open letter to employers, the agency explained:
It is the [employer's] responsibility and legal obligation to create and maintain a safe and healthful workplace, and that would include having a clear, unequivocal and enforced policy against the hazard of texting while driving. Companies are in violation of [OSHA regulations] if, by policy or practice, they require texting while driving, or create incentives that encourage or condone it, or they structure work so that texting is a practical necessity for workers to carry out their job.
Right now, 30 states ban texting while driving (and many more are working on similar laws), and the nation's four million federal employees are covered by an executive order banning the practice. Whether you are covered by such a law or not, it's a good idea to clearly outline your expectations of employees' use of cell phones and smart phones while driving a company car or on company business. Here are some points to consider for your policy:
- A distracted-driving policy should clearly say that it's against company rules to text, e-mail, or use a hand-held phone or communication device while operating a company vehicle, driving a personal vehicle for business use, or using a company-issued communication device.
- Consider prohibiting the use of hands-free devices except in emergency situations.
- Employees should be instructed to pull off the road if essential phone calls must be made.
- As with any other policy, simply putting things in writing isn't enough; your policy needs to be communicated to employees, taken seriously, and enforced by management. Require employees to acknowledge in writing that they have read and will comply with the policy. Discuss the policy and the dangers of distracted driving at your next employee training meeting.
Do you have a policy regarding phone use and driving? Have you ever had to deal with the aftermath of an employee accident caused by distracted driving?
Thanks to Celeste Blackburn / M. Lee Smith Publishers LLC / Blogs HR Hero