HR Policies: States are Adopting Distracted Driving Laws And Employers Should Take Action To Protect Themselves

STATES CONTINUE TO ENACT LEGISLATION PROHIBITING DISTRACTED DRIVING

As of July 2018, 16 states have banned the use of handheld cellphones while driving (Georgia, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands).  This list does not include the many other states that have enacted some similar ban or fine for use of devices that distract drivers with texting, calling, accessing the internet or navigation.

Based on the escalation of cellphone use by young and old drivers alike, and the increase in distracted driving accidents, any state without such a policy will undoubtedly be discussing implementation of some variation of a distracted driving bill in the near future.  This trend of driving while using a cellphone has also resulted in unwanted ramifications for employers, including liability for an employee causing an accident due to distracted driving.  It is important for employers to take proactive steps to protect themselves from such liability.

WHAT SHOULD EMPLOYERS DO TO PROTECT THEMSELVES?

Even absent a state law, employers and HR professionals should consider adopting policies banning the use of all cellphones and other electronic devices while driving.  When adopting or reviewing a current driving policy, consider implementing the following ideas:

  • Application to cellphone use in company-provided vehicles, as well as to work-related calls while employees drive personal vehicles;

  • Application to the use of all types of electronic devices while driving, including tablets, cellphones, personal digital assistants, laptops and iPods;

  • Application to making or receiving calls, sending text messages, and sending email while driving;

  • Application to all work-related activities and after hours work-sponsored events; and

  • Alternatives to answering calls or emails, like safely pulling off to a shoulder of the road if you must read or reply to such communication.

In addition, consider how you will communicate such policies to your employees so they understand expectations and the ramifications if the policies aren’t followed.  Focusing on your company’s policies now could save you time and money in the future if one of your employees finds themselves facing a distracted driving lawsuit.

If you have questions or would like help reviewing and updating your policies, please contact your Thompson Coe attorney at (651) 389-5000 or at myHRgenius@thompsoncoe.com.  You can also find helpful information and previous tips touching on this topic and more at https://thehrgenius.com/.

 
 

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Kevin Mosher