Business Brains

Does your company condone texting behind the wheel?

Does your company condone texting behind the wheel?

Posting in Technology

Socially speaking, we know it is bad to use a mobile phone while driving. But should businesses do more to encourage the 'right' behavior?

Generally speaking, most of us have been programmed to know that it is not OK to send text messages or even look at them when we are sitting in the driver's seat. We seem to be more lax about phone calls, which were banished first. But job pressures have probably prompted you to reach for your pocket or purse at least once in your life. Like when you're late for an appointment, right?

Now there is a new study out from ZoomSafer, which develops mobile phone policy enforcement software, suggesting that 32 percent of companies have evidence that employees have had on crashes on the job as a result of distracted driving (defined as using the phone while behind the steering wheel).

The good news is that approximately 62 percent of the companies surveyed by ZoomSafer have a policy in place that prohibits employees from using a mobile phone while driving for company business. (Why not 100 percent, though?) Fewer, maybe 53 percent, make an attempt to enforce that policy. That's not exactly condoning the practice, but it reinforces the perception that some managers want their staff to sleep, eat and breathe work. Admit it, some of you probably have given very little thought to whether or not your employees use their mobile phone while driving.

Said ZoomSafer CEO Matt Howard in a statement describing the survey:

"The fact that so many companies are telling employees to put the phone down while driving is encouraging from a policy perspective -- however, from a practical perspective, it's simply not enough to change behavior. To truly change behave and fully protect themselves from liability, companies must actively measure and enforce employee compliance."

The survey included 500 business managers in North America. It included representatives from companies of all sizes (from 25 drivers up to more than 5,000 drivers. The majority of the respondents were from the smaller end of the spectrum, though.

Why should this be something you worry about? For one thing, the survey found that 7.6 percent of the respondents had faced litigation due to an accident that happened as a result of employee use of a mobile phone while driving. That percentage was 37 percent among companies with more than 5,000 drivers. So, at the very least, you should worry about distracted drivers from a compliance and risk management perspective.

Companies in the business of long-haul trucking or local trucking were the most likely to have a mobile phone driving policy. Those in home or business services were the least likely.

The scariest results that I read in the survey, personally, were those that came from representatives of the taxi, limousine and bus industry. They were the only category where respondents did not "completely agree" that concerns about safe driving had been communicated to employee drivers. In fact, slightly more than 30 percent either completely disagreed or somewhat disagreed with that statement.

How would you feel about your child getting a ride to school with a driver from one of those companies? Now, look within and think about whether it is time to look behind the cultural implications of distracted driving to more practical concerns, such as whether it is good for business.

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure