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Friday, October 9, 2009

Text Messaging Ban While Driving Savvy Business Counsel

Text Messaging Ban While Driving Savvy Business Counsel

Reprint Opelika Auburn News 10-11-09
By Tommy Eden, Attorney

On Oct. 1, 2009, President Obama released an executive order banning text messaging while driving for federal employees. As part of the executive order, federal agencies must also encourage federal contractors, subcontractors, recipients, and sub-recipients of government contracts, grants, and other agreements entered into after Oct. 1 to adopt and enforce policies that ban text messaging while driving. Text messaging while driving is already prohibited or restricted in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.

The executive order titled FEDERAL LEADERSHIP ON REDUCING TEXT MESSAGING WHILE DRIVING makes the following statement of policy: “With nearly 3 million civilian employees, the Federal Government can and should demonstrate leadership in reducing the dangers of text messaging while driving. Recent deadly crashes involving drivers distracted by text messaging while behind the wheel highlight a growing danger on our roads. Text messaging causes drivers to take their eyes off the road and at least one hand off the steering wheel, endangering both themselves and others.”

In the Executive Order "Texting" or "Text Messaging" means reading from or entering data into any handheld or other electronic device, including for the purpose of SMS texting, e-mailing, instant messaging, obtaining navigational information, or engaging in any other form of electronic data retrieval or electronic data communication. "Driving" means operating a motor vehicle on an active roadway with the motor running, including while temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic light or stop sign, or otherwise. It does not include operating a motor vehicle with or without the motor running when one has pulled over to the side of, or off, an active roadway and has halted in a location where one can safely remain stationary.

Common Sense Counsel: with this latest action by the federal government, and the numerous states that have text messaging while driving bans, it is more critical than ever that all Alabama employers consider implementing in their Employee Handbooks a Driver Safety Policy covering: driver qualifications, what is a disqualifying driving record, general driving requirements, use of safety belts, what to do in the case of an accident and finally a wireless communication device policy like this:

Wireless Communications Devices UseEmployees cannot use wireless communications devices, including cell phones and text massagers, when driving on Company business. Drivers who need to use a wireless communications device must pull over to a safe location before using the device.

Failing to take such preventative steps now can make you an easy litigation target when your employee is involved in a serious rear end accident while texting.

Tommy Eden is a Lee County native, an attorney with the local office of Constangy, Brooks & Smith, LLP and a member of the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law and serves on the Board of Directors for the East Alabama SHRM Chapter. He can be contacted at or 334-246-2901. Blog at