What happens if you crash and you're on the job? As we found out, not only are you legally responsible for the damage you cause, so is your employer.
That liability is one of just one reason why many businesses are adopting cell phone policies, including the Greene County Highway Department.
The department is part of a growing list of companies putting safety first and enacting cell phone policies that ban all workers from talking and texting while driving on the job.
"The statistics are the same whether you're on a personal mission or you're on the clock. The difference is the law recognizes if you're on the clock, the employer is on the hook for your behavior," explains Kurt Lawson.
Larson is a Springfield Personal Injury Attorney and educates businesses about the costly consequences.
According to a federal study, on-the-job crashes cost employers more than $24,500, that goes up to $150,000 if someone is injured. If it's fatal, the number can reach into the millions.
The National Safety Council encourages employers to pass a total cell phone ban that covers all employees on both company and personal cell phones, whether they're handheld or hands-free. However, a policy is only as good as its enforcement, according to experts.
"The fact that you have a policy doesn't absolve you from all liability, in fact having a policy but not enforcing it may be as bad as having no policy at all," says Larson.
"We go out and check work zone areas. Of course anytime we see the workers out we check. It has not been a problem," says Green County Highway Department Safety Officer Greg Duvall.
A national safety council survey shows corporations that hang up the cell phone aren't seeing performance go down.
"You would think that productivity would suffer or customer service, but we've got companies that have put these bans in place, not only has it not suffered in some cases its actually improved," says Senior Director of the National Safety Council David Teater.
Duvall admits he knew enforcing the policy might be unpopular.
"I figured we have some resistance whenever you enforce new rules on a group of people, they are very receptive. That could be their families out there on the road that we're protecting."
For Ritchie Keller, it's taken a while to get used to.
"You've really got to train yourself not to answer your phone until you can get to a safe spot and get pulled over."
If you want to learn how to roll out a policy for your business. The National Safety Council has a free cell phone policy kit that can be downloaded here.
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