Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

3 Tips for Your Distracted Driving Policy

Your employees may be driving you up the wall, but if your small business doesn't have a distracted driving policy, you may be headed for a crash course in employer liability.

Distracted driving accidents take place at a rate of about one every 24 seconds, Inside Counsel reports. A good number of those crashes involve employees within the scope of their employment, which means employers are often held liable.

A few case studies show how costly these accidents can be: In one crash, a lumber salesman was driving while using a cell phone and left a woman crippled. That led to a $16 million settlement, according to Inside Counsel. Other crashes involving company vehicles resulted in payouts as high as $22 million, the magazine reports.

A small business owner can't control everything his employer does. But having a distracted driving policy in place for your company can help -- not just in preventing distracted-driving crashes, but also potentially limiting your liability.

What should go into a small business' distracted-driving policy? Here are three tips:

1. Ban the use of all personal electronic devices.

The National Transportation Safety Board recommends an across-the-board ban on the use of any electronic device behind the wheel. That recommendation was in response to a deadly chain-reaction crash in which a driver sent and received 11 text messages in the 11 minutes before the accident.

If you feel that's going too far, your policy should at least mirror what's allowed by state and local laws. Keep in mind, the majority of states now require the use of hands-free devices behind the wheel, while other states are stricter when it comes to younger drivers.

2. Explain and enforce your policy.

A policy is only effective if employees know about it and understand what it means. Some ways to publicize the policy include:

  • Having all employees sign off on the policy, preferably upon employment.
  • Posting the policy in prominent places, such as on vehicle dashboards or steering wheels.
  • Repeating the policy verbally, via email, and in your company newsletter.

In addition, you'll want to make sure managers and other co-workers aren't distracting your drivers with unnecessary texts, emails, or phone calls from the office.

3. Lead by example.

Just because you're the boss doesn't mean you're above your own rules. Make sure everyone in your company, including yourself, adheres to the guidelines, as workers will be looking to you to lead by example.

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