Dec 03, 2010

OSHA Says Texting While Driving Is a Workplace Hazard

Texting while driving has emerged recently as a major public safety issue. Just a few years ago, only a handful of states banned the practice. Now, more than half of the states prohibit all drivers from texting while driving; some states impose a ban only on certain drivers (younger drivers or bus drivers, for example; you can find a frequently updated chart of state laws on texting and using cell phones while driving here, at the website of the National Conference of State Legislatures). 

And it's no wonder why: According to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, texting while driving increases the risk of a crash or accident by 23 times, a much greater danger than any of the other activities studied (such as dialing or using a cell phone). Texting resulted in drivers taking their eyes off the road for the longest period as well. How long? Long enough to travel the length of a football field at 55 mph, according to the study. (Check it out here.) 

Recently, OSHA decided that enough facts were in to officially declare texting while driving a workplace hazard and an OSHA violation. On its new "Distracted Driving" page, OSHA tells employers that requiring, encouraging, or condoning texting while driving for work is prohibited:
"It is your responsibility and legal obligation to create and maintain a safe and healthful workplace, and that would include having a clear, unequivocal and enforced policy against the hazard of texting while driving. Companies are in violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act if, by policy or practice, they require texting while driving, or create incentives that encourage or condone it, or they structure work so that texting is a practical necessity for workers to carry out their job."

The agency goes on to tell employers that it will investigate complaints that an employer requires or encourages texting while driving, and will issue citations and impose penalties on those who fail to comply. 

And now a word from our shameless commerce division: If your company is searching for one of those "clear, unequivocal" policies prohibiting texting while driving, pick up a copy of my book, Smart Policies for Workplace Technologies.