Allowing employees to drive company-owned vehicles may be a necessity for your business, but it can also drive your corporation straight into legal trouble.
Nationwide, distracted driving accidents take place at a rate of about three per minute, Inside Counsel reports. Some of those crashes involve employees within the scope of their employment, which means employers are often held liable.
In one case, a lumber salesman was driving while using a cell phone and caused a crash that left a woman crippled. That accident led to a $16 million settlement, according to Inside Counsel. Other vicarious-liability crashes resulted in payouts between $5 million and $22 million, the magazine reports.
That's no small change, for any size of company. And it's also why experts are calling on business owners and corporate counsel to come up with policies aimed at preventing distracted driving.
What should go into your company's driving policy? Here are some suggestions:
1. Prohibit all personal electronic devices while driving.
This suggestion comes directly from the National Transportation Safety Board, which recommends an across-the-board ban on the use of any electronic devices behind the wheel. That recommendation came after a deadly chain-reaction crash in which a driver sent and received 11 text messages in the 11 minutes before the accident.
At the very least, Inside Counsel suggests your policy should mirror state and local laws, which may also ban or restrict the use of cell phones while driving. Keep in mind, laws may impose stricter limits on younger drivers.
2. Explain and enforce the policy.
A policy can only be effective if employees know about it and understand what it means. Common ways to do this include:
- Having all employees sign off on the policy.
- Posting the policy in prominent places, such as on vehicle dashboards or steering wheels, perhaps with a catchy slogan that workers will remember.
- Reiterating the policy in emails and in your company newsletter.
In addition, you'll want to make sure managers and other employees aren't distracting your drivers with unnecessary texts, emails, or phone calls from the office.
3. Be consistent in dealing with consequences.
Pursuant to your policy, follow up when employees are caught breaking the rules. Make sure no one, including yourself, is above the policy, as workers will be looking to you to lead by example.
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