Did you know an employer could be held liable for its own negligence in failing to adequately warn employees about the risks of use of electronic devices while driving or failing to take other measures to reduce those risks? Put another way, there is the potential for an employer to be held vicariously liable for employees who use a cell phone the employer provided and not prohibited from using while driving. During the recent past, companies have been forced to settle costly cases arising from such circumstances. Consequently, issues of safety and liability regarding employers not having policies in place that ban the use of electronic devices while driving are becoming harder to ignore. As such, employers need to create and incorporate new policies into their everyday operations.
For these reasons, and because the leading cause of worker fatalities year after year is motor vehicle accidents, the United States Department of Transportation (DOT), in conjunction with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration(OSHA), has increased efforts to encourage employers to enact safety policies prohibiting employees from using electronic devices while driving. This initiative conicides with President Obama’s Oct. 1, 2009, Executive Order that bars federal employees from texting while operating government owned vehicles. In addition, the DOT earlier this year announced, under the Motor Carrier Safety Act of 1984, a ban on texting by drivers of commercial vehicles. Approximately 30 states have existing laws to prevent some drivers from using cell phones or text messaging while driving. However, some states have laws that target only a segment of drivers, such as teenagers or those with learner’s permits.
Speaking of teenagers, another bit of good news regarding their safety on the roads, as well as those who share the road with them, was reported yesterday. According the Associated Press, fatal car crashes involving teen drivers fell by about a third over five years. The CDC says that the number of deaths tied to these accidents has fallen from about 2,200 in 2004 to 1,400 in 2008. The CDC credits the drop in accidents to a range of factors, such as safer cars with air bags and highway improvements. The main reason, however, is credited to the fact that most states are getting tougher by tightening restrictions on when teens can drive and when they can carry passengers.
If you have questions regarding liablity and car accidents, or if you or a loved one were injured in a car accident and need legal representation, please call our firm.