The dangers of using a wireless device while operating a motor vehicle have been known for some time, yet many drivers still engage in this dangerous behavior. The 2009 AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Index reported that 95% of the drivers surveyed said texting while driving was unacceptable. Of those same 95%, 18% admitted to still doing so.
With the proliferation of company-issued wireless devices, some risk managers and safety directors quickly recognized the exposure that the company may have from this new situation.
While distracted driving accidents related to the use of wireless devices go back more than a decade, as the technology evolved (from talking to texting) and the number of such devices increased exponentially, the frequency of such accidents also exploded. Some accidents have caused multiple fatalities and/or severe maiming, with verdicts approaching $25 million.
What Should a Business Do?
For businesses that provide wireless devices to their employees, it is important to create a formal wireless device use policy and to document that you have trained your staff on the elements of the policy. When developing or reviewing a wireless device use policy, some best practices to consider include:
- Reevaluate policies that were written in the past. Many were written before the advent of the smart phone and simply address talking on a phone while driving. An up-to-date policy will cover all communication aspects of the new phones that are available.
- Create a stand-alone policy so the message does not get lost in another larger policy
- Make the policy simple, short and easy to understand. A long or convoluted policy that discusses other topics makes relaying the expectations harder to communicate.
- A policy should not contain conditions on when a wireless device can and cannot be used while operating a motor vehicle. We recommend simply stating that a driver is not allowed to use a wireless device whenever they are operating a motor vehicle. It is also a good idea for a policy to state that a vehicle must be off of an active roadway and in park before a driver is allowed to communicate on or even touch a wireless device.
- Hold your drivers accountable if they fail to adhere to the policy. Document the violations and follow through with disciplinary actions according to your company policy.
- Investigate technologies that will help to limit or track use of wireless devices while operating vehicles. There are Technologies for smart phones that automatically “bounce” calls and messages while the vehicle is in motion and in-cab electronic devices that can sense device use, track it and warn staff that they are in violation of company policy.
- Retrain your staff on the policy on a regular basis. Document the training.