With distracted driving such a hot button issue in America today, it is no surprise that large corporations are now banning employees from using handheld electronic devices while driving company-owned vehicles or on company time. In light of the National Transportation Safety Board’s strong December 2011 recommendation that all fifty states and the District of Columbia ban cellphone use while driving, more and more businesses are doing so, not only to protect their employees, but also to protect their bottom line.
In recent years, several multi-million dollar lawsuits have made corporations culpable for employees who injured or killed motorists while the employees were driving company vehicles and using their handheld devices. Accidents like the September 12, 2008 Chatsworth train collision where Robert Sanchez, a train engineer with Metrolink, was proven to have been texting moments before he collided head-on with a Union Pacific freight train, killing himself and 24 other people as well as injuring 135 passengers and the subsequent $200 million lawsuit have forced companies to rethink their existing electronic device policies or create new ones. Time Warner, UPS, Owens Corning, and Chevron are just a few of the businesses who have instituted company-wide bans with many more to follow suit in the coming years.
While many employees have balked at this rule, studies show that employee productivity has not decreased with these company-wide bans, but either increased or stayed the same. By building in more travel time on company trips and scheduling conference calls during off-travel hours, employees have been able to continue to meet their quotas without putting their lives or the lives of others on the line.
With data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showing that at any given moment, nine percent of drivers are talking on handheld and hands-free devices, increasing their chances of collision from eight to 23 times, it makes sense that companies would keep themselves from legal liability and employee loss with a company-wide electronic device ban.
While no state bans all cell phone use while on the road, 10 states and the District of Columbia do restrict the use of handheld electronic devices.