The West Virginia Law Record has published a timely article discussing employer liability for employees involved in ‘Distracted Driving’ incidents.

Electronic devices (such as cell phones, laptop computers and other display devices) can command their user’s attention in a way that can have disastrous consequences, especially when driving. This condition, popularly known as “distracted driving”, presents particular challenges for businesses with employees who make deliveries, travel throughout work territories, or whose main function it is to drive.

Blank-ITAs reported in a previous post on this Blog, U.S. Department of Transportation (DoT), in conjunction with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration(OSHA), has recently announced that it will be increasing its efforts to encourage employers to create and follow safety policies prohibiting employees from using electronic devices while driving.

In addition, approximately 30 states have existing laws to prevent drivers from using cell phones or text messaging while driving. 

However, just because a state may not have specifically banned the use of these devices while driving, employers in these states should not be complacent. The potential for employers to be held liable for their employees’ accidents while talking, texting or using electronic devices as part of their duties should be sufficient for employers to address this issue with their workforce now.

An employer can be held liable for negligence if it fails to adequately warn employees regarding the risks of use of electronic devices while driving or to take other measures to reduce risk.

The article highlights examples where employers have been found vicariously liable, or have been forced into expensive settlements where their employee’s have caused or been involved in serious accidents while using a company cell phone.

The potential safety and liability risks of not having a policy banning or restricting use of electronic devices while driving are becoming too great for organisations to ignore.

In recommending guidelines for establishment of such a policy, the article makes the following point:

Ensure the definition of the electronic device is broad and inclusive to cover all wireless communication devices, not simply cell phones. Policies should also include television screens, computers, and other entertainment devices.

See the original article:

Blank-IT has been designed specifically to address the Distracted Driving issues that can arise from use of in-vehicle computers and laptops. Blank-IT is flexible enough to accommodate swing away brackets and ’emergency responder’ type environments. It can also be configured to either restrict computer access altogether when the vehicle is in motion, or to limit access to specified programs that are allowable under law, such as aids to navigation, dispatch systems and reversing cameras.

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