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No Phoning Home (Or Work) While Driving

October 13, 1999
Related Topics: Workplace Violence, Safety and Workplace Violence, Featured Article
Issue: Almost everyone in the company uses wireless telephones to keep in touch—and to do business. It seems so efficient to use the time commuting or traveling on business to call clients and check in with the office. Yet, as an HR manager, you are uneasy about the practice. You worry about employee safety and, as always, about potential liability if an accident occurs. Should you consider a policy banning talking on the telephone while driving?

Answer: Probably. Talking on the telephone is a dangerous distraction for drivers who should be concentrating on driving though cities or navigating busy highways.

To protect motorists and pedestrians, Brooklyn, Ohio, has enacted the Mobile Telephone Operation Ordinance (Ordinance No. 1999-27). The ordinance, believed to be the first of its kind in the United States, prohibits the use of mobile telephones under normal driving circumstances, unless the driver is using a hands-free device (with both hands on the steering device), contacting public safety forces or has the vehicle in "park" on public or private property. Violations are considered minor misdemeanors, with a maximum fine of $100.

Brooklyn was also the first to pass a mandatory seat belt law in 1966. Perhaps the Mobile Telephone Operation Ordinance will prompt other jurisdictions to follow Brooklyn’s lead once again.

What should HR do?

Some companies have recognized the safety hazards of talking on the telephone while driving and have created policies to stop it. Generally, the approach is to prohibit driving while using a hand-held telephone and to restrict the use of hands-free telephones to brief conversations. Drivers are instructed instead to park safely to use the phone. Here is a five-step plan for those who are interested in implementing a car phone policy:

  1. Create a simple policy, using two or three basic guidelines. For example:

    All employees should try to be as safe as possible while driving. Since accidents can happen when a driver's full attention is not devoted to driving, employees may not use hand-held wireless telephones while they are driving. The use of such wireless telephones is restricted to times when the car is parked safely. If necessary, very brief conversations on hands-free telephones are permitted, but the driver should immediately pull of the road and park safely to hold a conversation.
  2. Educate employees about the risks of talking on the telephone while driving.
  3. Communicate the policy to all employees, not just business travelers, since so many employees have wireless telephones that could be used to conduct business in the car.
  4. Use e-mail reminders, newsletters and 'travel safely' communications to reinforce the policy.
  5. Encourage employees to audit the behavior of others they ride with. For example, tell a driver talking on the telephone that it's not a safe driving practice, and ask that he or she not talk on the phone while driving.

Source: CCH Incorporated is a leading provider of information and software for human resources, legal, accounting, health care and small business professionals. CCH offers human resource management, payroll, employment, benefits, and worker safety products and publications in print, CD, online and via the Internet. For more information and other updates on the latest HR news, check our Web site at

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion.

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