Entries tagged with “Auto Liability”.


At the stroke of midnight new years day 2010, Illinois joins 18 other states in banning texting and/or accessing the Internet while driving.  

Additionally, Illinois has put restrictions on the use of cell phones in highway work areas and around schools to reduce the risk of death or injury to people in these areas caused by a lack of concentration while on the phone.  Illinois is one of 11 states who have banned handheld devices or established careless driving laws related to cell phones in the US.

I remember the day when cell phones were the exception rather than the norm.  On long trips, or when I was out of the office, I had to dial in to check my voice mail and follow up with any issues that may have arisen while I was out of communication.  People would understand when they received voice mail and would be patient enough to wait for the return phone call, rather than expect instant contact.  However the speed business operates at today is far faster and the importance to be available has risen to new levels.  As an alternative I would suggest those road warriors leave the phone out of their hands for an hour and 45 minutes and then stop and check messages and return calls for 15 minutes.  It will help them rest and be more alert while driving, and still keep them in touch, similar to a short airline flight where the phones are off due to government regulations.

I have talked about this issue in the past and have strongly suggested that you institute a safety policy that bans the use of hand held devices while driving on company business.   These steps are imperative to help protect your organization from law suits that may result from an accident, and may help retain insurance coverage for these accidents.   Naturally check with your insurance provider and your HR and Legal staff to properly define and craft this policy.

Please understand that the laws in place may not affect the use of a cell phone if operated through a hands free device, but understand that a phone call still provides distraction while driving, but in theory the driver’s eyes are still on the road.

What are your thoughts?  Does your company have a policy related to cell phone use or texting?  Please share your comments.

For a full listing of the various states and the current status of operating a vehicle while texting or using a hand held cell phone, click here.

The Illinois General Assembly has passed a law  banning the use of cell phones and other devices to be used for texting and accessing the Internet while driving.    The law goes into effect on January 1, 2010 and is one of two laws associated with the use of personal communications while driving.

The other law (public act 096-0131) prohibits the use of cell phones in school zone speed limits, constructions zones and use by individuals under 19 while driving.

These steps will help in the reduction of accidents, injuries and death due to distracted driving and I applaud the state government for taking this action.  It also helps you set HR policy for your company on the use of cell phones and other communication devices that send or receive text messages or connect with the Internet.

In a previous post (texting while driving can contribute to insurance cost increases) I talked about how a “no cell phone use while driving” can contribute to a reduction in insurance costs and an overall reduction in your total cost of risk.  The establishment of a policy like this, and enforcement, demonstrates the companies commitment to reducing auto accidents.  With this type of demonstration and the historical data showing a reduction of auto accident claims, your company is in an excellent position to negotiate a reduced rate (or reduced increase depending on market conditions).

Establishing this type of policy will not be easy, especially if your C-level employees are the type who “multi-task” while driving.  However the up side in savings, both in human life and in costs should be a major factor in putting this policy into place.

IMPORTANT UPDATE

(November 14, 2009)

Rhode Island is the latest state to ban texting while driving, bringing the number up to 18 states with laws on the books or some coming into effect.  The law went into effect on November 9 and carriers a fine of up to $125.00.

Pennsylvania is also considering a ban on texting with the added twist of making this a primary offense which would allow the police to stop a driver even if no other infraction is committed.

With the significant increase in these types of laws across the states it is more important than ever to have a policy in place to protect your company and employees.

The news has been filled the past several weeks with reports on the dangers of texting while driving.  Texting, along with cell phone use have been reported to be double the potential for an accident compared to driving under the influence.  Frankly I am not surprised.  I recall being in the car with a co-worker and actually being the eyes on the road while they fiddled with the cell phone and blackberry, warning them to stop, slow down or watch out as they checked the latest e-mails.   In many Cities, ordinances have been passed which do not allow for cell phones to be used by driver’s while driving, or require that a hands free device be used to reduce distractions.  In many areas there is talk about banning texting while driving as well.

The challenges businesses face is that a distracted employee, using a company car or on company business, becomes the companies responsibility in the event of an auto accident.  Not only will the business incur additional costs for any injury to the employee or damage to the vehicle, but they will also become responsible for damage caused by the employee, including property, medical and liability to any injured parties.

Many companies reacted to the distracted driver issue in the past by instituting policies that prohibited the use of cell phones while an employee is operating a vehicle.  If employees were found operating a cell phone while driving, progressive discipline would be administered up to and including termination.  

This policy fell in line with other company policies that would “inhibit” the operation of a vehicle or other machinery such as discipline or termination for employees at work while “under the influence” or hiring policies that would not allow employment to individuals with a DUI that would be operating a company vehicle.

The policies were initially designed to help reduce the costs associated with accidents, and as an outgrowth of that may help to reduce insurance premiums.  If the policy reduces the number and severity of accidents, the reduction will be taken into account at the next renewal.  After all if you are reducing the overall cost of risk by implementing these types of policies, it affects not only your company, but reduces the risk for the insurance company as well. 

I would urge you to strongly consider implementing a no texting while driving policy at your company (and no cell phone use while driving as well), it will not only save lives but save money as well.