Distracted Driving and Million Dollar Lawsuits: Get your cell phone usage policies in place this year!

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Ananth Rani, Azuga Co-Founder and CEO

April is the National Safety Council’s (NSC) Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and in case you’re not already clear on why this should be a top level priority for businesses that have drivers, here are a few eye-opening stats from the NSC:
  • Drivers are 4X more likely to crash when using a cell phone—whether in handheld or hands-free mode
  • Crashes are the #1 cause of workplace fatalities
  • On average, a property-only crash by a worker costs a business nearly $25,000. That number jumps to $150,000 with an injury and more than $1 million in the case of a fatality
  • 3,400 fatalities in 2016 were attributed to distracted driving
  • 40+ states ban texting and driving

The High Cost of Distracted Driving

Three recent legal proceedings involving distracted driving in commercial vehicles give an indication of the toll that cell phone use in a vehicle can have:
  • 2015—a trucking company settled a $3.35 million claim based on an accident caused by a driver allegedly using his phone in hands-free mode. Though not against the law, the settlement illustrates that juries can consider distraction caused by legal cell phone use in determining liability.
  • 2012—Coca-Cola paid $21 million to a woman injured when struck by an employee in a company-owned vehicle using a hands-free device. Coca-Cola had a cell phone use policy in place but was deemed negligent nonetheless.
  • 2010—an insurance carrier paid a total of $7.5 million to the families of two people killed by an employee driving a company car who was using her phone in hands-free mode. Though the company argued this was on personal time, it was presumed likely to be held liable and settled the case.

These startling numbers are a wake-up call for employers to take distracted driving prevention seriously. The level of cost and disruption to both the business and the people involved with vehicle collisions—and the increasing frequency of them due to cell phone use while driving—are putting many companies on a dangerous path.

Here are three steps every business with workers behind the wheel should take:

Establish a Cell Phone Usage Policy (but don’t stop here!)

It is not enough to tell your team not to use their cell phone while driving and to obey all laws. The pressures of work and life and the convenience of communicating on the fly are too great. In order to minimize risk, employers should create and have each worker sign a policy statement regarding cell phone use while driving. An effective policy:

  • Prohibits handheld and hands-free use of electronic devices while the vehicle employees are driving is in motion
  • Outlines how adherence with the policy will be monitored and enforced
  • Details the penalties associated with policy violations

Monitor Cell Phone Use by Workers in the Vehicle

New technologies, like the DriveSafe feature in Azuga Fleet, allow employers to monitor cell phone use in the vehicle. The Azuga Fleet Mobile App records drivers’ phone when the vehicle is in motion. A specific report in the administrative portal gives managers the data needed to understand who is in compliance and who isn’t.For Android devices, Azuga’s DriveSafe feature can be configured to block the use of the phone while the vehicle is moving (Apple doesn’t allow this).

Continually Discuss Driving Safety with Your Team to Build a Culture of Safety

As important as it is to have the right policies and tools in place, the most important thing is to make driving safety a key component of the way you manage your workforce behind the wheel. Frequent conversations about safety help set the tone. Azuga GPS fleet tracking systems uses gamification, with driver scores and rewards to help make safety and compliance an engaging and mutually beneficial pursuit. When drivers compete, everyone wins!

At Azuga, we’re committed to empowering both drivers and fleet managers through fleet management software to practice and encourage safe driving. To learn how we can help your fleet prevent distracted driving, click here. Don’t forget to follow #JustDrive throughout April for more safe driving tips!