Employers assume liability when North Carolina workers get behind the wheel

The Network of Employers for Traffic Safety in partnership with US Department of Transportation again reached out to 5,000 public and private companies to host their annual Drive Safely Work Week. The week-long campaign accessed 20 million workers – or 12.5 percent of the 2010 U.S. workforce. It was the highest participation rate in the 14-year history of the campaign. This year’s program held two objectives: to support employers in their roll-out of a cell phone policy; and, to raise employee awareness of the hazards of distracted driving, NETS reports.

Of the 4,690 participants, nearly 90 percent either have in place or plan to implement a mobile device policy within the next year. For the 3,067 employers who currently have a company policy on cell phone use while driving, 37 percent have banned the use of both hand-held and hands-free devices. The remaining 62 percent have implemented a hand-held ban only.
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In 2008, the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles reported that distracted driving was linked to 2,064 North Carolina car accidents that left 978 people injured. As our Charlotte workers’ compensation attorneys regularly note in posts to our North Carolina Workers Compensation Lawyers blog, when engaging in work-related travel – whether driving a company vehicle or an employee’s own wheels – employers have an obligation to provide a safe driving environment. That means the vehicle used must be in good working condition and regularly inspected and maintained. It also means making accommodations to address road and weather conditions. As well as implementing driver safety protocols and practices that educate and protect workers.

During the last year’s Drive Safely Work Week summit, Karen Harned, Executive Director of the Small Business Legal Center for the National Federation of Independent Business stressed the importance of implementing employee driver safety practices.

“If you’re not concerned about your employees’ driving behaviors, you should be. … Employers also need to be concerned about injuries to employees sustained while driving on the job. If an accident occurs, the employer may not just be facing a liability claim from the injured party but also a workers’ compensation claim from its employee.”

According to Harned, workers’ compensation issues are among the top ten most important problems faced by small-business owners. And employers aren’t responsible singularly for the “obvious” driver positions – delivery folks, transport truckers, etc. Rather, responsibility extends to every instance when an employee gets behind the wheel for a work-related activity, including such innocuous activities as sending an employee on a food run or on a drive to a meeting.

For North Carolina workers stricken with a work-related illness or injury, Workers’ Compensation attorneys with Lee & Smith know recovery and adjustment can be a lifelong battle. If you have been injured, or someone you love has been injured or succumbed to a work-related illness in Winston-Salem or anywhere else in the state, call us at 1-800-887-1965 or contact our law offices online to discuss your rights.

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