Each year distracted driving kills thousands and injures hundreds of thousands of people. Last year, the roads saw an alarming spike in traffic deaths, nearly reaching the highest number of fatalities since 2007. As the problem worsens, people and organizations scramble for methods to reduce road fatalities. One avenue is to cut down on distracted driving. Questing for safer roads, forty-eight states now have laws in place against texting and driving and several companies are racing to put self-driving cars on the road.
Now companies are joining the battle against distracted driving. Many employees grab their smartphone and try to sneak off an e-mail to their manager, clients, or subordinates while behind the wheel. As society’s opinion towards distracted driving turns negative, many employers have started to take responsibility for their employees cell phone use behind the wheel during work hours.
Creating a cell phone policy
Many employers worry about implementing a zero tolerance cell phone policy when employees are driving during work hours or for work-related purposes. Such a policy may create stress for employees, and many believe productivity will decrease.
Will a cell phone ban lower productivity?
Contrary to this fear, of the Fortune 500 companies that adopted zero tolerance cell phone policies in 2010, 19% saw a productivity increase and only 7% saw a decrease. Several surveys revealed similar results, showing that more companies saw productivity increase not decrease.
How to acclimate your employees to standing behind a cell phone ban
Employees who drive regularly for work, like sales agents, and those with long commutes tend to push back against a zero tolerance cell phone policy. However, it is the employer’s responsibility to put safety first and to help lower the stress of those used to using drive-time as work-time through changing workplace culture’s perspective on distracted driving.
Educate employees about the dangers of texting while driving
One way to change employees’ opinions about a cell phone ban is to educate them about the dangers of distracted driving, particularly texting while driving. Holding regular conferences that demonstrate the importance of safe driving can help can reinforce the idea in employees’ minds.
Create an environment accepting of commuters
Employees who travel on the job or commit to long commutes to reach their job may feel extreme stress over a zero tolerance cell phone policy. Mitigating this falls to the employer, who must create and foster an accepting workplace that understands the demands of drive time.
Show united support for the policy
Top management should agree on the cell phone policy and display that unity with employees. If the top management supports the policy, it will let employees adapt to it and accept it more readily.
Legal employer accountability
Employers may be held accountable if their employee crashes while “acting within the scope of his or her employment.” This means an employer may faces legal repercussions if an employee has a distracted driving related accident while performing an action for work or driving to or from work-related business. Even if the crash resulted from negligence on the employee’s part, the employer may end up facing a lawsuit.
Some legal protection can be gained for a company if it produces proof that an enforced zero tolerance cell phone policy was in place during the time of the incident. A policy in no way guarantees the employer’s safety against such liabilities, but it can help. Having a zero tolerance cell phone ban policy will also help reduce the likelihood of your employees getting into an accident in the first place.
Enforcing a cell phone policy
Having a policy in place does not mean everyone will follow it without some enforcement. Here are some ways you can monitor your cell phone policy.
Educate employees about the risks of distracted driving
Holding conferences, meetings, or seminars that inform employees about the risks of distracted driving can go a long way to curbing the practice. You can also raise awareness of its dangers by placing posters throughout the workplace.
If you know an employee within your department has a longer commute or a previous engagement he or she must leave early for, schedule meetings well before the departure time so said employee does not have to join the call on his or her cell phone. Furthermore, do not let an employee join a meeting on a cell phone or hands-free device if you know he or she is driving.
If an employee knows there is a meeting that must be attended while he or she is in transit, that employee should plan for a place to stop and participate in the meeting before continuing to drive.
Monitor your employees
You can monitor the parkening lots to make sure no one is texting or talking on their phone while driving. You can also install work-issued smart phones with apps that help prevent distracted driving. If the workplace environment views distracted driving as a negative behavior, it will start to monitor itself as well.
Distracted driving is a growing danger, and workplaces can help mitigate the risk through a zero tolerance cell phone policy.