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Distracted Driving: The Boss Made Me Do It

Written by Ankin Law Office

When employer-related distractions like phone calls, texts and emails cause employee car accidents, the employer can be held responsible for the damages that result.

Are You Distracted by Your Boss?

Intense workplace demands impact many workers behind the wheel. Drivers commonly use their cell phones to talk to, text and even email their bosses, co-workers and business associates about work-related issues while traveling to and from work or while using their vehicles for business purposes. If these distractions cause a car accident, the employer can be held responsible for injuries and property damages, even if the accident occurs outside of normal business hours.

Work-related distracted driving is a common problem. According to a recent Travelers Insurance survey, 75 percent of employees use their personal vehicles for work on a daily basis and many stated they commonly use their cell phones for work-related purposes while driving. The survey showed:

  • 38 percent of drivers answer or make phone calls for work while driving
  • 17 percent of drivers send and/or read text messages while driving
  • 10 percent of drivers send, receive and read emails while driving
  • 38 percent of employees feel they should always be reachable by phone
  • 27 percent of employees say the boss calls or texts knowing they are driving
  • 17 percent of employees fear job consequences if they don’t answer

According to a Harvard Business Review article, Managing the High-Intensity Workplace, employers often overload their employees with work and contact them before or after business hours with questions, conference calls, and unscheduled requests for additional work. To satisfy heavy work demands, employees arrive early and stay late for work, stay up all night to finish projects, work weekends, and keep their cell phones and computers on for 24 hours. Employees who are unwilling or unable to comply with employer demands are often passed by for promotions, raises, and bonuses.

Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of motor vehicle accidents in the United States. According to the National Safety Council, more than nine people die, and another 1,000 people are injured each year in car crashes involving a distracted driver. In 2016, the NSC reported over 40,000 motor vehicle fatalities. When car accidents result from employer-related distractions, employers may be liable for property damages, injuries, and fatalities that result.