Distracted driving is a real scourge in our society. Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, has declared today #StopTheTextsDay asking Twitter for ideas on how best to fight this menace and convince people to put down the phone and drive. Celebrities like Kasey Khane have even released public service announcements with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration urging drivers to “STOP THE TEXTS STOP THE WRECKS.”
Unfortunately, distracted driving isn’t just a problem amongst consumers. Many employers still have policies that allow, or even encourage employees to use their cell phones while driving. The National Safety Council released a report today about the danger caused and the liability faced by employees with such misguided policies. According to the NSC:
“In 2010 motor vehicle crashes killed nearly 33,000 people in the United States. Motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 cause of work-related deaths and account for 24% of all fatal occupational injuries. On-the-job crashes are costly to employers, incurring costs of more than $24,500 per property damage crash and$150,000 per injury crash. Driver distraction is a significant factor in crashes, and cell phones have played an increasing role as cell phone use has grown rapidly in the past 15 years, from a small percentage of the population using cell phones to virtually everyone. Today there are more U.S. cell phone subscriptions than there are people living in the United States. The National Safety Council estimates that at least 24% of crashes in 2010 involved drivers using cell phones, including 1.1 million crashes where drivers were talking on cell phones and a minimum of 160,000 crashes where drivers were texting. These estimates include property damage, injury and fatal crashes. Several research studies found that the risk of a crash is four times as likely when a person is using a cell phone – handheld or hands-free.”
In one example, the NSC cites the case of a fatal accident caused by a distracted truck driver:
“In March 26, 2010, a semitrailer traveling southbound on I-65 near Munfordville, KY, crossed the grass median and entered the northbound lanes where it was struck by a 15-passenger van. The crash killed 11 people. NTSB determined the probable cause of the crash was the truck driver’s failure to maintain control of his vehicle because he was distracted by the use of his cell phone.”
These accidents are tragic and the public should not be left to foot the bill for the havoc that distracted driving causes. That’s why the National Safety Council recommended that all employers create policies prohibiting the use of cell phones while employees are behind the wheel. An experienced personal injury attorney will discover cell phone records from the driver to determine if distracted driving caused the accident. If an employer fails to heed the NSC’s advice, and their distracted employee injures one of our clients while working, you can rest assured we will make them pay for the damage they caused.