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Distracted Driver & Operator Policies

If your employee caused a car accident in their personal vehicle, outside of work, would you be liable?
What if the accident happened because the employee was responding to an e-mail on their smartphone?
What if that e-mail were a work e-mail? 
While the rise of smartphones has allowed employees to work outside of the office, as you can see by the above questions, this flexibility also creates certain risks.  Employees who make phone calls, text, e-mail, or surf the web while driving expose your company to potential liability.  You can count on a plaintiff’s lawyer adding your company to the list of defendants if your employee caused a car accident because he/she was responding to a work phone call, text, or e-mail.
How do you minimize your liability in these situations?
The best approach is to implement a Distracted Driver policy.  This policy, which you can include in your employee handbook, should be an outright ban on texting, e-mailing, surfing the web, and talking on the phone while driving.  The policy should require employees to acknowledge that they will not engage in any of these activities.  If an employee must make a call or respond to an e-mail, the policy should require the employee to pull off the road and stop the vehicle.
Along these lines, your company should also have a Distracted Operator policy for those who operate equipment and/or heavy machinery.  Just as you don’t want an employee to be texting while driving on the road, you don’t want an employee texting while operating a crane, forklift, or lathe.  A quick glance at a text or an e-mail could create a potentially dangerous situation.
If you need a sample Distracted Driver or Distracted Operator policy or if you have additional questions, contact a member of our Emerging Technologies or Labor and Employment practice groups.
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