Would you feel safe if people drove blindfolded? The equivalent happens every time a text is sent from behind the wheel. Distracted driving causes more than 25 percent of U.S. auto collisions, creating a huge impact on public safety and more than $33 billion annually in insurance claims.
This is one of the largest exposures we are seeing in fleet liability. Employees using phones and other devices in a company vehicle create an unaddressed liability that can put your company at serious risk, both legally and financially.
According to an AT&T survey of 1,000 drivers, 98 percent know the dangers of texting and driving, yet 75 percent continue to do it. But texting is not the only form of distracted driving. It can be anything from a heated conversation on the phone to looking for that french fry that dropped between the seats. It only takes a moment of complacency and a catastrophic accident can occur.
As one example, a veteran semi-truck driver was travelling at 60 miles per hour. His jacket fell onto the floorboard of the passenger seat and he picked it up, taking his eyes off the road. In that time a vehicle stopped in front of him to make a left turn into a parking lot. The truck driver was unable to stop and hit the vehicle with full force. The driver and passenger of that vehicle survived the crash but received catastrophic injuries requiring 24-hour care. This resulted in an $8 million settlement for the injured and lives that were forever changed.
Thus, it’s clear that distracted driving can lead to often significant lawsuits, in addition to the risk to employee safety. With this new weapon in the plaintiff lawyer’s arsenal, companies that allow their employees to talk or text while behind the wheel are increasingly being held responsible. Below are two high profile cases:
There are additional hidden costs due to accidents your business can incur:
- Increased insurance costs
- Increased Workers’ Compensation claims and experience rating increase
- Decreased productivity and morale
- Reputational damage to your company’s brand
- Punitive Damages
In the event your company does not have a mobile phone policy, it’s important to establish one to help lower the chance of an accident. However, this does not prevent your company from facing liability when an accident occurs.
The piece of the puzzle missing most frequently in these policies is enforcement and auditing employee compliance. Without this, you have no way of knowing whether your employees are using mobile phones while driving. A business must demonstrate it has done everything possible to enforce employee compliance to receive top carrier consideration and best in class pricing.
In terms of prevention, there are a number of technologies on the market today that are capable of disabling mobile phones in a moving vehicle and returning them to service when stopped. We advocate the use of this technology.
We encourage you to work with your risk advisor to make the necessary investments and ensure the correct policies are in place to protect the lives of your employees and others on the road. And, while doing so, you will be protecting your company’s brand and bottom line.