Motorists everywhere have their eyes on a 4-inch screen in their hand instead of on the road in front of them. Now, imagine it’s your employees who are texting, checking their Twitter, or maybe both, as they barrel down the road. That should send chills down your spine. A recent study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute concluded that a driver is 23 times more likely to cause an accident if he is texting while driving.
Suffice to say, this is dangerous behavior, but what most people fail to realize is that this behavior is also dangerous to employers. Ohio courts have consistently found that employers can be responsible for accidents caused by their employees while at work. Likewise, the use of a mobile phone while driving can expose an employer to vicarious liability in situations when it otherwise would not. For example, an employee making or receiving a work-related call while running a personal errand and then getting into an accident may result in the injured individual suing the employer. When courts have found, in these instances, that the employee was in the "scope of his employment", the employer can be vicariously liable.
Given the prevalence of mobile technology in today’s business environment, it behooves any employer to adopt and enforce a policy to restrict mobile phone use while driving. But adopting smart policies isn’t always as easy as it seems. For instance, some companies absolutely prohibit any mobile phone use during business hours, but then issue hands-free technology. Other companies restrict mobile phone use while driving, but then may place a call to the employee while he is on the road.
In reality, adopting a smart policy to restrict mobile phone use is more akin to creating and implementing a sexual harassment policy. Not only is the policy important, but employers must actually enforce the policy and monitor their employees’ mobile device use.
Not having a policy is not a policy.
The current trend is that more and more companies are adopting policies to restrict mobile phone use while driving. There is no reason to wait to adopt a mobile phone policy where employees could pose a danger to other motorists and, ultimately, their employers. To find out if a mobile phone policy can help your business, please pull over and contact your Stark & Knoll attorney at 330-376-3300.