Workplace Cellphone Accidents

April 18, 2019
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Drivers who use their cellphones behind the wheel can cause horrific and deadly accidents. In Connecticut, it’s against the law to drive while using a hand-held phone and even illegal for drivers under the age of 18 to use hands-free devices.

Even though the risks are grave, not everyone is as supportive about reducing distractions on the road as others, especially when it comes to phones. Many employers who encourage employees to use their cellphones for work also support the use of these devices behind the wheel if their employees work remotely or travel.  In cases where cellphone use leads to a traffic accident, employers could be liable for putting their employee’s lives at risk.

To help keep all drivers safe on the roads, workers and employers must understand the dangers of using cellphones behind the wheel. Taking the chance to get a little extra work done in your car is not worth the price of a life, and spreading awareness is the first step to reducing these tragic accidents.

Driving For Work Can Be Deadly

Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of work-related fatalities in the country according to the Center For Disease Control and Prevention. Millions of American workers get behind the wheel or in a passenger seat of a vehicle for their jobs every day, and distractions during this time are one of the main reasons these accidents occur.

Cellphones have become one of the most deadly distractions for any driver on our roads. Approximately 1.6 million accidents result from cellphone use every year according to AMAXX Worker’s Comp Resource Center, and more functions popup every minute that take driver’s attention off the roads.

Any employee who works using their cellphone while on the road is unnecessarily putting themselves at risk. AMAXX reports that people who drive while talking on the phone are up to four times more likely to be in a vehicle accident- those who text are up to eight times more likely.

Unfortunately, employers are making it easier than ever to continue working out of an office environment. Company apps and work cellphones put additional pressure on employees to always stay on top of their work, even when they are supposed to be focusing on driving. Though it may seem that all of the downtime in the car is the perfect opportunity to catch up on work, experts have shown that multi-tasking while driving is having a devastating result on the safety of our roads.

Drivers- You Cannot Multitask

You may think you are an excellent multitasker in your car, but chances are, others can tell your focus is not entirely on driving.

In a safety campaign titled The Great Multitasking Lie, the National Safety Council is attempting to debunk the overall myth that multitasking behind the wheel is safe. Here are the four most common misconceptions about multitasking:

  • Drivers can multitask: The brain cannot process two thinking tasks such as driving and talking on the phone at once. While people believe they are simultaneously concentrating on the two tasks, their brain is actually switching back and forth extremely quick and can leave room for missing information such as a person walking across the road.
  • Talking to someone on the phone is no different than talking to a passenger: Drivers who are on the phone as opposed to talking to passengers are the only ones seeing the road conditions. There is no second pair of eyes to watch the road and warn the driver of hazards when having a conversation on the phone.
  • Hands-Free devices are less dangerous: Your hands may be free, but your brain is equally distracted with hands-free devices as it is using hand-held devices. Drivers who are talking hands-free still miss seeing up to 50 percent of their driving environment.
  • Drivers talking on their phones have a quicker reaction time than those under the influence: Drivers who are on cellphones have a slower reaction time than drivers with a legal intoxication level of .08.

After looking at the data, it is astonishing that employers would encourage these dangerous behaviors to get a little bit of extra work completed, but most of these myths are widely believed. Employers may believe they are protecting their employees when encouraging the use of Bluetooth devices or handsfree gadgets to work while driving when they are putting their workers at risk. More awareness needs to be spread about these myths and the dangers of distracted driving to help reduce the rising numbers of transportation accidents on the job.

What Employers Should Be Doing To Protect Employees

Even if an employer does not outwardly encourage the use of cellphones while driving at work, they can still be held liable for damages sustained if the employee is on shift or in a work vehicle.  Employers who continue conversations with employees they know are driving or do not say anything when they see an employee using their cellphone behind the wheel are just as accountable as employees who heavily suggest that their employees should do work behind the wheel.  By not talking to employees about the dangers of cellphone use while driving or creating/enforcing policies to hinder it, employers are showing a type of support for the behavior, and more accidents will continue to occur because of it.

Employers can help keep their workers safe on the job by implementing a Distracted Driving Policy highlighting the risks of cellphone use behind the wheel. To start, AMAXX recommends incorporating a policy that bans all employees from using their cellphones while driving on the job in a company vehicle. The policy should include all work-related communications and any communication on company cell phones or hands-free devices. Distracted driving policies should also include

  • Prohibiting the use of all non-emergency handheld of hands-free devices on the job.
  • Requiring cell phones to be put on silent and put away when driving for work.
  • Only allowing the use of cell phones when the driver is safely parked.
  • Strictly enforcing the policies, so employees know they are serious.

To take the pressure off employees to use their cellphone while driving and promote a distraction-free work culture, employers can make changes such as:

  • Encouraging employees to make planned stops during their trips where they can make calls safely.
  • Not scheduling conference calls when they know someone will be on the road.
  • Encouraging personalized work voicemail messages to instruct those who call that employees are unable to answer or respond when they are driving.

Connecticut Workers’ Compensation and Workplace Accidents Attorneys

Jacobs & Wallace is a successful personal injury and workers’ compensation firm that has over 40 years of combined expertise to offer our clients. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, our knowledgeable team is here to fight back for you. Contact us today for a free consultation and to discuss your case with one of our amazing team members.

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