While spending a lot of time on the road can limit a businessperson’s ability to be productive, many will still conduct business while driving. For busy employees who frequently travel, it can seem like there is no other way to find the time to make or accept necessary calls.
However, new guidelines and changes to smartphones aim to keep employees focused on the road. Last month, the Department of Transportation called for mobile device manufacturers to implement features that will discourage distracted driving. This comes as a response to statistics on U.S. highway deaths, which have risen to over 35,000 per year. About ten percent of those deaths occurred as a result of distracted driving.
One of the proposed changes is to introduce a “Driver Mode” to smartphones. This would limit operation of certain features (such as texting and phone calls) while the user is traveling. For years, mobile app developers have been investigating methods to lessen the problem of distracted driving. While most of these efforts attempt to disincentivize drivers from texting while driving, this new mode would shut users out of those functions entirely. While this proposed change has not resulted in any commitments from mobile phone manufacturers, they have expressed interest in implementing the idea.
Understandably, some critics have expressed concern about these changes. One of these complaints is that employees will be unable to conduct business while on-the-go. While workers strive for productivity by working while driving, they actually run the risk of greatly harming their employer.
Here are the ways that businesses can be held responsible for distracted driving, as well as some ways to protect a business from being liable:
Business Liability for Accidents
The proposed changes by the DOT are the latest in a long line of laws regarding cell phone use. Bans on using mobile devices while driving have been commonplace for several years now; in fact, bus and truck drivers have been forbidden from texting or making calls while behind the wheel since 2011.
While drivers have commonly expressed frustration at these laws, businesses have actually historically benefited from them. Employers can be held legally responsible if a traffic accident occurs as a result of employees conducting business while driving. Businesses are frequently targeted by lawsuits due to auto accidents caused by negligence. These laws explicitly forbid the use of mobile devices while driving. The lack of grey area on this matter will discourage many employees from working from behind the wheel.
Protecting a Business from Distracted Driving
There are several considerations that businesses should address in regards to cell phone use. As long as companies establish clear policies against distracted driving, these laws should not be a concern. Here some steps that business owners should take to protect themselves:
It is essential to enforce a strict “no cell phone use” rule while driving. Include this rule in your company policy. Employers should spell out precisely what employees should do when they receive a call during transit. If hands-free technology is allowed, the business should issue bluetooth headsets to its employees. This technology can decrease the risk of using a phone while driving, through they are not permitted for use while driving in a few states.
Even if your state does not prohibit the use of cellphones on the road, a strict cell phone policy will help prevent your company from being held liable if there is an accident. Since this sort of policy expressly forbids distracted driving, it would be difficult to find the business at fault for condoning the behavior.
New regulations and changes to mobile phones are not necessarily a problem for companies. While they can limit productivity, employee safety should be of the utmost concern. These changes will help protect drivers and businesses alike.