A Useful Distracted Driving Reminder

I have often written about the fact that we tend to think of distracted driving as something that teens and 20-somethings are especially prone to, despite a growing body of evidence identifying this as a problem that affects every age group.

The latest reminder that this is not just a young person’s issue comes from Greenhouse Management magazine. Under the headline “It Can Wait – Even the Job” the magazine offers some pointed advice: “business owners, CEOs, managers and other figures in the corporate world are slower on the uptake than they should be” at a time when for many of us the demands of the office are such that “daily tasks, such as driving to work, can easily become an afterthought when an important call, text or email comes in.”

The article also raises an noteworthy legal point: “Although it is commonly assumed that employees using personal cellphones in their personal vehicles are liable to nobody but themselves in the event of a crash, (President of consulting firm OperationsInc David) Lewis said the argument could be made that employers are responsible for how and when their employees take and return business calls and messages.” As an Oregon distracted driving lawyer I agree with this analysis. It is a basic principle of law that employers are responsible for what employees do during the course and scope of their jobs.

As the article notes, this danger is reinforced by a work culture here in the United States that frequently insists that employees and managers be available 24/7. The article notes that in some states cases are “making their way through the court system… where the storyline is something along the lines of the company insisting on a standard of individuals answering their phones, responding to emails or texts within a certain period of time, a disregard for the safety of the individual or the laws in place, then an… accident of some type.”

This sort of thing should never happen. As the article notes, quoting a professor from Florida Atlantic University, ”Texting while driving is basically driving for a few seconds blindfolded. In a few seconds, many things can happen.” Moreover, leaving aside the legal aspect of this discussion, no employer should ever put an employee in a situation where they must endanger themselves and others to adhere to company policies. This, again, brings up the legal term ‘course and scope.’ Simply put, if an employer requires an employee to answer the phone or respond to texts or emails immediately no matter what the circumstances then they may be legally liable for the consequences of that policy.

As a Portland distracted driving attorney I am concerned about the growth of a business culture that encourages – at times forces – adults to do things that are patently unsafe. All of us need to set an example for the people around us, and to be aware that distracted driving is a problem at all age levels – not something confined to teens.

 

Greenhouse Management: It Can Wait – Even the Job