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.

  • Streetsman

    Just read that article in the Times, “Driven to Distraction” about the guy who’s job (he feels) is so important that he needs to email, make phone calls and conduct business on his laptop while driving his SUV to work in California:

    What I see totally missing from this discussion is that you can do all those distracting acitivities while commuting to work, safely and conveniently, and even eat a snack and use the bathroom, if you are riding on a train. The platform to mitigate distracted driving should necessarily beget a platform for commuter rail.

  • gecko

    #1 Streetsman,

    This can also be achieved with transportation systems based on small single-person vehicles capable of riding on and off systems. The systems provide high levels of automation, ease-of-use, and safety “while commuting to work, safely and conveniently, and even eat a snack . . .” at highly reduced costs and environmental impacts while providing substantial improvements in distributed and on-demand capabilities.

  • dave

    Chevron has a fairly strictly enforced policy for employees and contractors of no phone calls while driving.

  • Marcus A

    Why is this even an issue?

    Simply enforce the laws already existing against cell phone use. Ticket everyone driving with a cell phone. Make the fines prohibitively high. 3 strikes and you lose your license for a year.

    The city needs money. Here’s a quick way to generate income while making the streets safer.

    If you take a taxi, demand that your driver get off the phone. If he gives you any attitude, then don’t tip.


Daily News on Distracted Cab Drivers: What’s the Big Deal?

In an apparent quest to see which local daily can issue the most ridiculously auto-centric assessment of the problems plaguing the public realm, the "New York" Post has some competition. In August, 8-year-old Axel Pablo was killed by a cab driver in Harlem. Witnesses say the cabbie was on his cell phone. Though police cleared […]