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Safe Roads Now: Companies often liable in distracted driving crashes

Posted: 6:21 PM, Oct 24, 2018
Updated: 2018-10-25 15:06:44Z

 Distracted driving has become a major liability for employers with many facing judgments for millions of dollars due to employees getting into distracted driving crashes.

According to the Nebraska Safety Council, there were 4,699 distracted driving crashes last year in the Cornhusker State. 

Experts say if a distracted driving crash happens on the clock, it's not just the employee who sees the consequences. Employers are also liable to lawsuits.

"Judgments - recently across America - are running in the tens of millions of dollars and the people getting sued aren't the drivers," said Mark Segerstrom, Road Safety Project Coordinator, Nebraska Safety Council. "It's the employer. When we are talking about Nebraska, how many employers can keep their lights on and their doors open with a ten million dollar judgment?"

In Illinois, an electrical contractor was held liable for $4.1 million dollars in 2006. According to the National Safety Council, the employee was a driving a company while using GPS software, when he allegedly ran a red light and hit another vehicle, seriously injuring a 70-year-old woman.

In Maryland, $4 million was awarded after an off-duty police officer crashed into and killed a college student. The police officer was allegedly texting while driving a police cruiser, at the time of the crash.

Cases of employer liability like these are why safety organizations recommend employers have a zero tolerance cell phone policy.

"We have a safety manager on staff and he's put together a comprehensive safety manual," said Vikki Jaeger, Human Resources Director at Habitat for Humanity of Omaha. "We also have that included (distracted driving) in our employee handbook and safety aspects. It's in our safety handbook and employee manual."

Nebraska Safety Council is offering educational presentations to companies and their employees on the dangers of distracted driving and not wearing a seatbelt.

"It's easy to think that nothing will happen because you get away with it so often," said Jared Moehring, Volunteer Services Coordinator at Habitat for Humanity of Omaha. "I think to go through a presentation like this and being reminded of what could happen, definitely makes a difference."

 

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