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.