Texting and driving: When your client's at risk, along with their employees

Note: This post originally appeared on Arrowhead's Tribal blogpost. The post has been updated and modified to incorporate information for all commercial business types.

Does your commercial client need an employee mobile phone policy? The answer is yes, if driving is part of any employee’s job. Because most of us have a symbiotic relationship with our cell phones, they’re never more than arm’s length away – even while we’re driving. So the temptation to check that incoming message, whether text or email, is just too great, as is the urge to make a quick phone call. And therein lies the problem.

Consider these statistics from Distraction.gov and DistractedDriverAccidents.com:

  • Of the 2.5 million people involved in road accidents annually, more than half (1.6 million) involve cell phones. 
  • 25 percent of crashes are caused by texting and driving; this includes voice-to-text messages
  • More than 330,000 accidents caused by texting while driving lead to severe injuries
  • Some 78 percent of severe injury accidents involving distracted drivers are due to texting.
  • Texting and driving is six times more likely to cause an accident than drunk driving. Read this again. It means that it’s actually statistically safer to drive while drunk than to drive and text. (We strongly discourage both!)
  • Accidents occur when a driver’s attention is taken off their driving for an average of three seconds. However, it takes a driver typically a minimum of five seconds to read a text.
  • In those five seconds to read a text, the average driver has traveled a distance longer than a football field. Multiply that distance by four if they’re texting back a message. 
  • The chances of a crash because of any reason is increased by 23 times when you are texting. Even if the crash is another driver’s fault, you will probably have been able to avoid it if you had been looking at the road instead of the phone.
  • Even taking a call is dangerous: 21 percent of road accidents involved talking on the phone, whether hands-free or hand-held. Studies show that it’s the distraction of the conversation itself, not the act of holding the phone, that contributes to accidents, says the National Safety Council.

“There’s been a spike in severity and frequency over the last couple of years of commercial auto claims, and it doesn’t seem to be declining,” said Dhara Patel, president of Property and Casualty Division at American Claims Management, Arrowhead’s claims administrator, in an interview with Insurance Journal TV. “The number of drivers who actually admit they were texting or talking on their cell phone when the accident occurred is incredibly high; I’d hate to see what the real numbers are, including those who wouldn’t admit to it.”

Related: Help your commercial auto clients hire safe drivers

Even if your client's employee is driving his or her own car while on company business, they may be held legally accountable for their worker's negligent act of texting and driving. They may also be held accountable for NOT having a safe use cell phone policy in place. Those are just a few reasons why an employee mobile phone policy is crucial to a company’s viability.

Some states such as California enacted tougher cell phone laws at the beginning of last year. California's hands-free law has a small violation price of $20 for first offense. Still others, such as New York, are considering implementing a textalyzer law. This new device, the equivalent of a Breathalyzer, will be used at the scene of a crash. It will tap into the operating system of all drivers’ cell phones to check for recent activity. Failure to hand over a phone could lead to similar consequences of refusing a Breathalyzer: suspension of a driver’s license.


What should an employee cell phone policy include? 

The policy should include any employee who drives, whether their own vehicle or a company vehicle – during the course of their job. Each employee should read and sign the written document. Include the following: 

  • Cell phones cannot be used while operating a vehicle. No exceptions.
  • Create a voicemail message saying you are not available or driving and will return calls when safe. 
  • Allow voicemail to handle your calls.
  • Pull off the road to park in a legal and safe location if you need to use or adjust your phone’s GPS maps and navigation, place a call or send a text.
  • Ask a passenger to make or take the call or text for you.
  • Explain to regular callers such as family and friends your driving schedule, including when you will be available to talk.
  • Keep hands on the wheel and eyes and mind on the road.


 Related: Steps to Creating an Effective Loss Control Program

How else can we reduce distracted driving?

Consider these options to help your client monitor and encourage distraction-free driving:

  • Be aware of state laws in each state where employees drive, as laws vary state-to-state, and incorporate those laws into their written policies.
  • Use mobile phone-blocking technology for cell phones in company-owned vehicles.
  • Use in-cab cameras to monitor distance drivers.
  • Implement a discipline program for violating policies.

 What other resources are available? 

The National Safety Council’s Distracted Driving website offers a variety of materials including posters, tip sheets, infographics and training webinars. They also offer a cell phone policy kit for employers and a distracted driving online course.

While there’s no surefire way to completely safeguard your client's potential liability, incorporating these guidelines into their employee mobile phone policy can help reduce the risk of a claim.