Making Employers Liable For Their Distracted Drivers

Today one of our Streetsblog Network members picks up on some ideas in the latest New York Times article about distracted driving, which focused on workers who multitask in their cars using a variety of electronic devices. The Chicago Bicycle Advocate, which is written by a personal injury attorney, says that only the threat of liability for employers may be able to influence this frightening trend:

3647897679_e061120127.jpgPhoto by poka0059 via Flickr.

The pressure that many employees, both white collar and blue, feel to respond to work emails, phone calls and text messages while on the road may be far more compelling than the remote risk of being ticketed for doing so. One way to compel employers to institute cell phone bans is to put them on notice that a failure to institute such a policy could hit them hard where it hurts, in the purse. We have
reached a point where the dangers of driving while using a cell phone are so thoroughly documented and well understood that use of a cell phone while driving should support a cause of action for willful and wanton misconduct. An employee who causes an accident due to inattention from cell phone use that results in serious injury or death should result in the employer being held liable to pay very substantial punitive damages to the victim or the victim’s family. In my opinion, existing Illinois law supports this proposition.…

More from the network: The WashCycle celebrates the opening of the new Bike Station at Washington’s Union Station by asking where the next one should go. New Haven Safe Streets Coalition has a post about the importance of free broadband access for all citizens — and how that relates to safe streets. And on the Dallas Transportation Blog, readers are talking about the possibility of French involvement in Texas high speed rail.

  • KateNonymous

    I don’t think I’m in favor of this. The person using the phone should be responsible for his or her decision to use the phone. Yes, the employer should accept “I was driving” as a reason for a delay–but ultimately I don’t see how my boss is supposed to read my mind and know when I’m in the car.

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