Texting Risks

Employers Warned Not to Incentivize Texting and Driving

OSHA is urging employers to abolish procedures that force workers to text while driving in order to carry out their duties.
By: | May 19, 2014

Employers that create incentives that encourage workers to text while driving are violating federal law. OSHA says that includes structuring work so that texting is a practical necessity for workers to carry out their job.

With more than 3,000 people killed and 416,000 injured in distraction-related crashes in 2010, the agency is urging employers to prevent their employees from texting while driving. OSHA’s comments came as the U.S. Department of Transportation launched its first national distracted driving enforcement and advertising campaign.

“You drive. You text. You pay.” —Anthony Foxx, Transportation Secretary

“It is well-recognized that texting while driving dramatically increases the risk of a motor vehicle injury or fatality,” said David Michaels, assistant secretary for OSHA. “We are asking employers to send a clear message to workers and supervisors that your company neither requires nor condones texting while driving.”

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of workplace deaths and accounted for more than two of every five work-related fatalities in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. OSHA says employers have a responsibility to protect their workers by prohibiting texting while driving.

Reaction time is delayed for a driver talking on a cellphone as much as it is for a driver who is legally drunk, according to a flier from the agency. “Studies show that drivers who send or receive text messages focus their attention away from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. At 55 mph, this is equivalent to driving the length of a football field blindfolded.”

Employers are encouraged to:

  • Prohibit texting while driving and declare their vehicles “text-free zones” and to emphasize that commitment to their workers, customers, and communities.
  • Establish work procedures and rules that do not make it necessary for workers to text while driving in order to carry out their duties.
  • Set up clear procedures, times, and places for drivers’ safe use of texting and other technologies for communicating with managers, customers, and others.
  • Incorporate safe communication practices into worker orientation and training.
  • Eliminate financial and other incentive systems that encourage workers to text while driving.

Meanwhile, the DOT’s recently conducted campaign highlighted the dangers of distracted driving along with the penalties for violations. Currently, 43 states and four other jurisdictions have banned text messaging by drivers, 12 states and the four jurisdictions prohibit using handheld cellphones while driving, and 37 states and D.C. have banned cellphone use by novice drivers.

“This campaign puts distracted driving on par with our efforts to fight drunk driving or to encourage seat belt use,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Across the country, we’re putting distracted drivers on notice:  If you’re caught texting while driving, the message you receive won’t be from your cellphone but from law enforcement — You drive. You text. You pay.”

Nancy Grover is the president of NMG Consulting and the Editor of Workers' Compensation Report, a publication of our parent company, LRP Publications. She can be reached at [email protected]

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