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Several years ago, laws were passed in many states that held bartenders accountable for serving the drinks that impaired their customers who then chose to drive.  Now, employers could be held liable for employees who use their own or company owned cell phones while driving company vehicles and who cause accidents.

Currently, twenty states have laws on their books that make it illegal to use cells while driving, with many more states expected to follow.  When employees are using company equipment, the law says it’s the employer’s responsibility to ensure it’s used in a legal manner.  Just as employers have safety guidelines for those who use heavy equipment, guidelines must also be put into place for drivers. founder A. Harrison Barnes reminds companies of the financial consequences an employee can cause; the employee’s negligence becomes the employer’s negligence in many instances.

Barnes also reiterates the importance of clear policies on when BlackBerries, cell phones and other electronics are to be used.  Even when companies rely on constant communication with drivers, guidelines must be put into place that spells out the procedures for handling texts and incoming calls.  If a manager needs to contact an employee who’s on the road, accommodations must be made that allow the employee the opportunity to pull to safety before accepting any incoming calls.  While it’s not ideal for time management, the alternative is far worse.  Further, the rules should apply across the board – even with upper management.  If they’re driving to a business meeting or even travelling in another town, if they’re in a company vehicle, the company’s policies and procedures apply.

In fact, many of the employers who are part of the network have attorneys on staff that represent those injured due to carelessness while driving and who can attest to increased interest in legislation aimed at preventing automobile accidents caused by electronics distractions.  This, of course, includes texting while driving.  Many agree this has become a serious social problem on America’s roadways and just because one is at work doesn’t lessen his responsibility, but it does make the employer just as responsible.  A. Harrison Barnes believes this is the tip of the iceberg as more injuries and deaths are being caused by texting while driving.

At the very least, drivers in company vehicles who are pulled over by authorities jeopardize the company’s insurance rates.  This alone is cause for concern.  In a time when companies are trimming budgets and watching every penny, employees who cost money certainly are not at risk of becoming employee of the month and in fact, may find themselves looking for new job opportunities.

Bottom line, it’s a gamble that’s simply not worth taking in any vehicle and regardless of whose time you’re on.  Employers will most certainly be instituting strict guidelines that will likely include discharging those employees who fail to follow the safety guidelines.  Employees run the risk of having the repercussions follow them for many years as a result.

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