Driving under the influence has a whole new meaning as the dangers of driving and texting continue to gain notice. New terms, such as "intextication," signal a growing concern about engaging in distracted driving and its consequences. Many studies -- including some published by the New England Journal of Medicine and the British Medical Journal -- report that talking on a cell phone while driving substantially increases the dangers of driving.  

More employers getting the message about "no texting while driving" policies

Driving under the influence has a whole new meaning as the dangers of driving and texting continue to gain notice. New terms, such as "intextication," signal a growing concern about engaging in distracted driving and its consequences. Many studies -- including some published by the New England Journal of Medicine and the British Medical Journal -- report that talking on a cell phone while driving substantially increases the dangers of driving. Drivers who use cell phones have slower reaction times, and more accidents, than drivers who are legally drunk. The dangers are heightened by the number of cell phones in use in the United States, which increased from 40 million in 1996 to more than 276 million in 2009. As cell phone usage increases, more companies are making no texting policies an integral part of employee culture. "Using electronic technology to keep employees engaged and productive when they're not in the workplace is important, but employers need to send the message that the technology shouldn't be used while driving," says Joe Utecht, LifeWorks management consultant. "Texting and driving seems like a dangerous combination to many of us. But companies should consider broadening any policies to "distracted driving," which may also include talking on a cell phone." 

Addressing distracted driving head on 
For employees who use cell phones and other mobile devices while driving, their cars have literally become "offices on wheels." As more employees utilize mobile devices to send and receive work-related information, it's more important than ever for companies to take a stance for the safety of their employees. 

Ceridian client Securian Financial Group, Inc., parent of Minnesota Life Insurance Company, is following suit with their recently implemented Distracted Driving policy. The policy aims at protecting the safety and well-being of Securian's associates and other drivers on the road as well as reducing the risk of potential costly lawsuits against its associates and the company. The policy addresses a number of known hazards. 

"It's our business to evaluate risks, and the statistics show that distracted driving takes a human toll," says Bob Senkler, Securian's chairman and CEO. "Securian is taking an important step to reduce this risk and potential liability. Our policy is a common sense course of action -- and it's the right thing to do." 

By adopting the policy, Securian is joining many other employers nationwide who have also instituted similar measures to protect their employees and reduce liability. Securian's policy also supports laws regarding distracted driving passed in Minnesota and other states. 

"Regardless of state laws, responsible employers must take the lead to protect their employees with no texting policies," adds Steve Nemerson, Ceridian's employment law compliance leader. "If employers don't want to be at the mercy of juries, they should proactively have a strong policy that prohibits texting and communicate and monitor the policy. That helps to reduce employee and employer risk as much as possible." 

How to help employees steer clear of danger: Devising a company policy to curb distracted driving
Your company decides to adopt a company policy to prohibit employees from using handheld or other electronic devices for work purposes while driving. What can you say -- or not say -- when it comes to safeguarding your employees and the public and protecting your organization from liability? The following model policy developed by Ceridian HR Compliance outlines some key definitions to include in a distracted driving policy. 

Company policy 
Text messaging is prohibited while driving company vehicles or while driving on company business. As used in this policy: 

Driving

  • Means operating a motor vehicle on an active roadway, including while temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic light, stop sign or otherwise.
  • Does not include operating a motor vehicle with or without the motor running when one has pulled over to the side of, or off, an active roadway and has halted in a location where one can safely remain stationary.

Text messaging

  • Means reading from or entering data into any handheld or other electronic device, including for the purpose of short message service texting, e-mailing, instant messaging, obtaining navigational information or engaging in any other form of electronic data retrieval or electronic data communication.
  • Does not include glancing at or listening to a navigational device that is secured in a commercially designed holder affixed to the vehicle provided that the destination and route are programmed into the device either before driving or while stopped in a location off the roadway where it is safe and legal to park.

By adopting a policy that prohibits texting while driving, employers send a clear message that their employees' safety comes first.