Review Policies in Light of Distracted Driver Awareness Month
By Anne-Marie Storey, Esq.
In addition to being mud season, April is National Distracted Driver Awareness Month. This gives you a good reason to review your policies pertaining to use of cell phones and other devices while an employee is operating any vehicle on your behalf.
Some of the relevant restrictions on such use are the following:
· First, federal law prohibits commercial drivers from using handheld mobile phones while operating commercial trucks or buses.
· Second, according to an October 2010 opinion letter from OSHA, it is the employer’s “responsibility and legal obligation to create and maintain a safe and healthful workplace, and that would include having a clear, unequivocal and enforced policy against the hazard of texting while driving. Companies are in violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act if, by policy or practice, they require texting while driving, or create incentives that encourage or condone it, or they structure work so that texting is a practical necessity for workers to carry out their job.”
· Third, Maine law prohibits the operation of a motor vehicle while engaging in text messaging, which is defined as “reading or manually composing electronic communications, including text messages, instant messages and e-mails, using a portable electronic device” (but exempts use of a global positioning or navigation system).
Maine also has the “distracted driving” law which penalizes drivers who fail to have their vehicles under control due to wide range of behaviors (but which did not specifically address texting).
Employers whose employees operate business-owned vehicles or their own vehicles on business should be sure they have a policy that addresses prohibited behavior and/or sets parameters on use of electronic devices in vehicles. In addition, employees should be educated as to the policies and supervisors should be cautioned against disciplining an employee for failing to respond to a text message or cell phone call immediately if the employee is traveling and doing so would violate the new law or established policies.
If you have questions please e mail Anne-Marie at Astorey@rudmanwinchell.com