Most states have enacted laws restricting the use of electronic devices while driving. Some states allow some hands-free operation. Using hands-free does not make the use of electronic devices safe or without risk while driving.
Hands-free does not always mean the hands are not needed to operate some devices.
All devices do not allow for a totally voice-activated operation. Most electronic devices require some physical interaction by the user to access the key functions. All electronic devices are not cell phones. There are many devices in the hands of drivers, many as part of an employment requirement.
The Case Against Multitasking
Psychologists agree that there is really no such thing as multitasking. Our brains can only process one complex task at a time.
Distraction is still a problem when electronic devices are used, even during hands-free operation. Talking on the phone requires the driver to pay attention to the conversation. It is a challenge for a driver to be completely alert to road conditions when talking on the phone.
The use of electronic devices requires concentration. If a driver is concentrating on what is being said over the phone or written in a text, email, or other instruction, then their ability to concentrate on driving is lost. Drivers cannot give 100% of their attention to driving if they are talking on the phone – even if they are hands-free.
Use of Employer Supported Electronic Devices
Many employers provide electronic devices to their mobile employees. These modern devices help keep track of employee’s location and productivity. They are used to assign work as well as communicate with the employee. The user can often log case information, communicate with other employees, and enter payroll data. Delivery personnel use these types of devices to scan packages and accept signatures.
Employees are tempted to continuously check these devices for updates. Many employers expect their employees to be immediately responsive. These devices have improved efficiency for the companies that use them, and they have become an integral part of many organizations management function.
The number one cause of workplace fatalities is motor vehicle accidents. Employers can only benefit by making safe driving practices a priority.
Policy and Liability
Having a policy against cell phone use is not enough. The use of all electronic devices must be included. Definitions must be clear. The policy must be enforced and understood by all levels of management and the employees it applies to.
According to the National Safety Council, Employers can be held liable for damages if an employee is involved in an accident while on duty, or in a company vehicle, or on a company electronic device. The employee can be making a personal call at the time of the crash, the employer can be held liable.
Policies about using electronic devices can’t simply be published and ignored. Evidence must exist to prove that the policy was adhered to in order to protect the employer from exposure.
Contact our experienced law firm for assistance developing and enforcing your hands-free electronic device policy.