Although mobile devices and applications have become invaluable to many small businesses, a growing number of business owners are addressing the potential risks associated with using mobile devices improperly. Transportation accidents are the leading cause of workplace deaths in United States1, and distracted driving is the primary cause of traffic accidents.2

With concerns mounting about the potential dangers associated with distracted driving, many small business owners are taking active steps to improve safety and reduce potential liabilities.

A Growing Risk

While concerns about the potential for distracted driving increased as mobile devices became more common, the issue has been accelerated by a number of federal, state and local laws restricting the use of mobile devices in moving vehicles. For example, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration passed a law in early 2012 prohibiting commercial vehicle operators from using handheld cell phones. Nine states have made it illegal for any driver to hold a mobile phone while driving, and 35 states prohibit text messaging by drivers.

In addition to direct losses from physical damage and lost productivity, small businesses may be assigned legal liability if an employee causes an accident on the job while using a mobile device.

Managing Risk

A valuable early step in addressing potential distracted driving risks is identifying those team members who drive, as well as any company processes that could potentially distract drivers. Many companies, for instance, have stopped scheduling conference calls during times of the day when employees are likely to be dialing in from the road.  They may stop contacting field workers via text messages when they are likely to be traveling to their next work site.

Small business owners should consult an attorney to address their specific situation, but safety and insurance professionals recommend that small businesses consider adopting a distracted driving policy that either prohibits the use of electronic devices while team members are driving, or matches restrictions imposed by state or local laws.

Employers can also take advantage of the many online training resources to help educate team members about the potential dangers of distracted driving.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Department of Transportation, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and other government bodies and insurance companies have published information to help business owners develop policies and training programs.

In addition to safety policies and tools, it’s also important to establish guidelines that let employees know that it’s okay to ignore calls from the company while they are driving. For example, if a supervisor gets annoyed when an employee doesn’t return a call quickly, that manager may send a mixed message that could potentially undermine the effectiveness of the company’s safe driving efforts

Tech Tools

A growing number of fleet management application suites are also adding features designed to reduce the risks associated with distracted driving.  SafeCell Enterprise® powered by AT&T®for instance, allows business owners and fleet managers to manage texting, emailing, and Internet browsing while employees are driving, and to enforce regulatory and company device use policies. The software includes features that allow companies to block inbound or outbound texts, calls, emails, and Internet use while an employee is driving.

By addressing the potential problems associated with distracted driving, team members may be able to enjoy the productivity enhancements associated with mobile devices and applications without their employer assuming an inordinate amount of related risk.

  1. https://www.bls.gov/news.release/cfoi.nr0.htm
  2. https://www.ehow.com/info_8070582_leading-causes-traffic-accidents.html

The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.

SafeCell Enterprise® is a registered trademark of W2W, LCC and AT&T® is a registered trademark of AT&T Intellectual Property. Nevada State Bank does not claim any ownership or exclusive rights to the use of these trademarks.