As today’s vehicles become more integrated with cell phones, employers should consider adopting policies regarding employee’s use of personal and work issued cell phones. Many states have adopted laws prohibiting texting or the use of hand-held cell phones, but hands-free calling, encouraged by improved technology integrated into new vehicles, is becoming more and more common. The problem, however, is that studies show that hands-free calling still distracts drivers.
In 2011, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that all states ban the use of all portable devices, including hands-free devices. Additionally, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has noted that the safest course of action is to avoid the use of cell phones while driving altogether.
In light of the mounting evidence that even hands-free calling is distracting and recommendations and policy statements from the federal government emphasizing the same, employers must ask themselves if merely requiring employees to comply with state laws regarding texting or hand held devices is sufficient to protect their interests and the safety of their employees. The National Safety Council has provided a thorough discussion of the risks of allowing employees to use cell phones while driving and examples of cases where employers have been held liable for accidents caused by their employees while using cell phones. As vehicles become more integrated with cell phones, employers will undoubtedly be faced with the need to constantly evaluate to what extent they allow their employees to use cell phones while driving for work and how to control and manage the risks associated with cell phone use by employees.