12142017Headline:

Cook County, Illinois

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Kristina Labanauskas
Kristina Labanauskas
Contributor •

Employers may be liable for Drivers’ Multitasking

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It should come as no surprise that the use of personal electronic communications devices while driving is unsafe. In fact, a recent report reveals that driving while using hands-free cell phones and other communications devices is nearly as unsafe as driving while using hand-held devices.

Many state laws and local ordinances governing the use of electronic devices while driving expose employers to new liability, which can be considerable.

To date, no state entirely bans using cell phones, but thus far six states ban hand-held cell phone use and 17 states and the District of Columbia ban text messaging for all drivers.

A lawyer could use the violation of a local ordinance as evidence of negligence to prove that the employee, and therefore the employer, is liable for the accident. A lawyer might also seek some sort of punitive element as well because legitimate studies link electronic device use to accidents.

In a perfect world, ordinance or not, drivers would completely refrain from texting or talking while driving to ensure their own safety and the safety of others on the road. But, for their own protection, employers should consider having a policy for employees using a company vehicle to abide by all applicable laws and rules of the road. Thus, if an accident happened, the employee would arguably be acting outside of the scope of their employment, and the employer would therefore not be liable. Additionally, if someone violates state law while working, that could potentially be grounds for discipline or termination, which is a useful deterrent.