Who me? Distracted? The Distracted Driving & Employer Liability Connection

By: Advocate Brokerage

The statistics are staggering.

According to distraction.gov, engaging in visual-manual subtasks (that is a fancy way of saying using a cell phone) increases the risk of getting into a crash by three times.

Furthermore, in the US, at any given daylight moment, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones.

It is no wonder that the U.S. Department of Transportation and individual states continue to enact aggressive legislation targeting the use of mobile electronics while behind the wheel.  Distracted driving is dangerous!

For commercial vehicle drivers, both companies and the drivers they employ can be on the hook for fines for distracted driving infractions. Therefore it is imperative that employers be aware of the potential liability that they are exposed to as a result of the actions of their workers while behind the wheel.

What is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving is defined as the act of driving while engaging in other activities.  It is a broad term but it is most often applied to:

  • Using a mobile device
  • Texting
  • Eating and drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Grooming
  • Reading (that includes reading maps too)
  • Using a navigation system
  • Watching a video
  • Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player

When is Mr. Business Owner Liable?
Business owners are responsible, in the majority of cases, for third-parties injured by an employee driving a vehicle, regardless of ownership of that vehicle, within the scope of their employment. Any driving that is authorized by the company or managers for the employee, or is necessary to carry out his or her job function, is considered within the scope of employment.  (Of note, if the employee commits an intentional illegal act or deviates so far from work-related activities that it ends their employment, employers can become exempt from liability.)

Do Your Homework
If your future employee’s scope of work includes being behind the wheel, you need to do your homework.  Companies and business owners can be held liable for negligent entrustment. Negligent entrustment occurs when an employer allows an employee to drive a company car when they know or have reason to know that the driver is unlicensed, incompetent or unqualified to drive. Knowledge of incompetence can include:

  • Knowledge that an employee has been drinking alcohol prior to getting behind the wheel
  • Knowledge of an employee’s history of reckless driving
  • Knowingly allowing an unlicensed employee to drive a vehicle

This is why we recommend doing your due diligence and researching your employees though their Motor Vehicle Records or MVRs. We will be sharing additional information regarding MVRs in Thursday’s blog post, so be sure to check back with us!

Help keep your employees safe!
Once you’ve done your homework, we’ve got some additional tips to increase employee driving safety:

  • Ensure all employees are aware of the relevant driving laws and regulations.  Regularly update your company’s policies and be sure your employee handbook reflects up to date distracted driving regulations.
  • Ban all employees from using mobile devices while driving for work and instruct employees to pull over and put the vehicle in park if they need to use a phone or tablet.
  • Limit or prohibit work-related driving by employees with poor driving records.
Report a Claim Make a Payment Get a Quote About Advocate Personal Insurance Business Insurance Client Resources Contact Us