Use of in-car computers and Employer Liability

A lawsuit in the United States highlights the potential for employers and manufacturers to be held liable for incidents involving workers who operate laptops and computers in company vehicles.

The legal action relates to an incident in Austin, Texas. A police officer diverted his attention from driving to enter information into an onboard laptop computer. The officer’s inattention allegedly caused an accident that led to serious injury for the motorcycle rider.

using laptop in carThe police vehicle failed to yield the right of way, ran a stop sign, and collided with a motorcycle in an intersection. The rider of the motorcycle nearly lost a leg and endured twelve operations.

Despite extensive physical therapy, he has since struggled to learn to walk again, suffers from horrible disfigurement to his leg and back and is unable to leave the house unattended.

The officer was driving a police department vehicle with an on-board laptop computer running software for record-keeping and sending text messages. Neither the computer or the software system had a built-in mechanism to block usage of the computer by an officer who was also driving.

According to the attorney behind this case, the Mobile Data Computer used by the Austin police resulted in the officer’s eyes being drawn away from the road for up to four out of every six seconds.

The attorney cites the incident as being a result of both policy and technological failures i.e.

  • It was departmental policy to install the onboard computers & software and to encourage officers to use them while driving
  • It was departmental policy to seek an exemption for its officers from Austin’s ordinance against texting while driving
  • There should have been a built-in ability to disable an officer’s on-board computer when he or she is driving

Austin attorney Len Gabbay has included both the Austin Police Department and the makers and sellers of the Mobile Data Computer in his lawsuit seeking compensation for the motorcycle rider’s life-altering injuries.

Cases such as this should press home to employers that it is CRITICAL that they:

  • devise policies to ensure that computer use within vehicles is managed correctly, and
  • implement technology to enable the effective enforcement of such policies

About Blank-IT:

Blank-IT is designed specifically to address the problem of driver distraction and use of in-car and in-cab computers and laptops. It is easily installed, doesn’t rely on 3rd party input such as GPS, is fully customisable for different working environments and will help your company and vehicle fleet conform with distracted driving legislation.

We also work closely with mounting system manufacturers such as Tempus to provide you with complete solutions to any in-vehicle display management requirement.

Find out more today at Blank-IT – or contact us on 08 9486 7122 (if calling from outside Australia: +61 8 9486 7122).

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