Cell Phones Cause Distracted Driving and Employer Liability

Recently, more attention has been given to distracted driving and the role cell phones play in driver inattention. There have been numerous studies done about the subject, and several regulatory agencies have banned their use.

In January of this year the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) banned the use of cell phones in commercial, regulated vehicles unless they are accessed via a hands free device. The driver cannot reach for, dial or hold the cell phone. Only Commercial Driver License holders are subject to these requirements while they are driving a commercial vehicle. Wired or wireless hands free devices are allowed under this requirement.

Another recent development is the National Transportation Safety Board recommending last December that all states ban the use of cell phones while driving, whether using a hands free device or not. This recommendation was made after a review of some large auto, bus and train crashes the last several years where they determined that using the cell phone and being distracted was the main cause of these crashes.

Unfortunately, this has also gained the notice of the trial attorneys. In any major crash where a cell phone may be involved, plaintiffs’ attorneys are going after the cell phone records. They have been successful in using these records to increase jury awards. A Florida family was awarded $21.6M from the employer of a driver that was using their cell phone; an Alabama trucking company was ordered to pay $18M; an Arkansas lumber company paid $16.1M; a paper company paid $5.2M in similar circumstances.

What can an insured do about it?

With the employer being the target in cases like this, insured’s need to have a strict written policy banning the use of cell phones (talking or texting) while driving. Compliance with state and federal regulations should be considered a minimum standard.

With increased accidents surrounding cell phone use while driving you must be sure you have a policy in place to protect yourself and your employees.

Does your company have a policy regarding the use of cell phones?  If not, have you considered putting one in place?

Be safe, use a hands free device while driving.

Penny-Hanley & Howley Insurance

reference  source http://qbena.com/personal-business.aspx

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