According to statistics released by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Guidelines for Employers to Reduce Motor Vehicle Crashes, “every 12 minutes someone dies in a motor vehicle crash, every 10 seconds an injury occurs and every 5 seconds a crash occurs.” These guidelines also state that the promotion of safe driving practices will help an employer’s bottom line. The average crash costs an employer $16,500, which increases to $74,000 when the crash also results in an injury and up to $500,000 when the crash results in a fatality.
In a 2010 open letter to employers, then-OSHA Administrator Dr. Michaels said, “it is your responsibility and legal obligation to have a clear, unequivocal and enforced policy against texting while driving….Companies are in violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act if, by policy or practice, they require texting while driving, or create incentives that encourage or condone it, or they structure work so that texting is a practical necessity for workers to carry out their jobs. OSHA will investigate worker complaints, and employers who violate the law will be subject to citations and penalties.” OSHA also states that it has used its General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, to issue citations and proposed penalties in these circumstances. OSHA considers “distracted driving” to be a “recognized hazard” to employee safety under the General Duty Clause.
In addition, a study by researchers from the University of Utah concluded that motorists distracted by a cell phone were as impaired as drunk drivers. Even more shocking is that the researchers concluded the hands-free use of cell phones was not any less distracting than handheld use and may even be more distracting than physically texting while driving.
Most cities have employees that drive city vehicles as part of the requirements of their job, so in order to prevent liability there are several simple steps that can be taken. First, have written policies regarding the use of city vehicles, including take-home vehicles, maintenance of city vehicles, reporting requirements for safety concerns, and a complete prohibition against any form of distracted driving. Second, review these policies with employees that drive city vehicles or that drive their own vehicles on city business. Lastly, the city should provide required training for the safe operation of vehicles, which can be as simple as accessing the KLC website.
For sample vehicle use policies or a review of your current policies contact Andrea Shindlebower Main.