Creating a policy for employee cell phone use while driving

Technology is rapidly changing. Have your company’s driving policies kept up?

If you have employees who drive as part of their jobs, your driving policy should address cell phone use. Drivers interacting with cell phones have a 17 percent higher risk of being involved in a crash or near crash, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety . Most of the increased risk is attributable to reaching for, answering or dialing a cell phone. The risk of a crash or near crash is five times higher for drivers who are texting, according to the institute. There were 3,450 traffic fatalities in 2016 due to distraction-related crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration , and 42 percent of drivers admit to reading texts or emails while behind the wheel, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association .

Distracted driving policy examples

A total employer cell phone ban covers: handheld and hands-free devices, all employees, all company vehicles, all company cell phones and all work-related communication, even in a personal vehicle using a personal cell phone.

Here are a few examples of policies you can draw from to address employee cell phone use while driving:

Note that employers have been held liable for crashes caused by their employees’ cell phone use.

Hands-free devices not enough to prevent distracted driving

Distraction comes in different forms, according to the organization EndDD :

  • Manual distraction: Taking your hands off the wheel
  • Visual distraction: Taking your eyes off the road
  • Cognitive distraction: Letting your mind wander from the task of driving

Research shows the cognitive distraction of talking or texting while driving is dangerous, even when drivers have both hands on the wheel. According to 2013 research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety , these mental distractions slow reaction times and cause drivers to miss important visual cues.

Research from the University of Iowa showed that subjects engaged in answering true and false questions, intended to mimic the distraction level of a phone conversation, took twice as long to look at new objects on the screen in front of them than those who were not engaged in answering questions.

This video from the National Safety Council  highlights why a cell phone policy that covers hands-free devices is so important.

Training your employees on cell phone policy

After your company has the right policies in place, it’s important to make sure employees follow them.

Our 5-minute solution safety training talk on cell phone use  provides talking points you can share with your employees including:

  • Cell phone users have significantly poorer reaction time.
  • To stay safe, eliminate all cell phone use while driving including taking calls, sending or reading text messages, sending or reading email and surfing the web.
  • Cell phone laws (like Minnesota’s prohibition on texting while driving) apply while at a stop sign or stop light as well.

Make sure they know you really mean it, too. In a National Safety Council survey , 54 percent of respondents said work would motivate them to do a distracting activity while driving such as making a phone call, searching for a location using a GPS system or reviewing and sending email.

The National Safety Council’s Cell Phone Policy Kit includes posters, employee fact sheets, videos and other resources to educate employees on distracted driving.

Training employees on the dangers of distracted driving really does make a difference. A study of healthcare workers showed a 50 percent decrease in distracted driving following an awareness campaign.

Additional resources on safe driving

For more information on safe driving, check out these downloadable resources:

This is not intended to serve as legal advice for individual fact-specific legal cases or as a legal basis for your employment practices.

This post was originally published on April 23, 2018, and updated on August 22, 2018.

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