Strict cell phone bans curb accidents, study shows

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Updated Nov 19, 2010

Smartphone Untitled 1Motor carriers with the highest safety performance records also are likely to have stringent cell phone use policies, according to the latest Strength in Numbers Fleet Benchmarking Study, sponsored by the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS).

The study of company vehicle fleet crash rates found that leading performers were more likely to have a total ban on mobile phone use, and 6 of the 8 leading companies were also more likely to terminate a driver for violating the company’s mobile device policy. In addition, eight out of nine of the top ranking fleets regularly review drivers’ mobile phone records after a crash to determine if the driver was using a phone at the time of the incident.

By comparison, all thirteen companies that fell in the bottom of the rankings had some degree of a mobile device policy, but none had the option to terminate a driver for violating the policy.

The yearlong benchmarking study examined fleets from 45 leading companies in the pharmaceutical, oil and gas, food and beverage, telecommunications, transportation, package delivery and insurance industries.  The companies, including 27 in the Fortune 500, operate a combined fleet of just over 400,000 vehicles that logged more than 8 billion miles in 2009.  The study participants’ crash rate per million miles (CPMM) ranged from less than one to nearly 12.

“This is the first evidence we’ve seen that shows the combination of a strong mobile device policy and strict consequences can result in lower crash rates,” said Bill Windsor, NETS Board Chairman. “The benchmark study shows the potential for well-written state laws combined with strong enforcement to eventually reduce crash rates in the general population.”

Participating members of the NETS study offered a number of tips for developing a corporate mobile device policy, including:

·         Make sure you have a policy, not a guideline.  Guidelines are typically interpreted as suggestions and are more difficult to enforce.

·         Policy language must be clear.  One member’s policy prohibits employees from using “any electronic device in any gear other than park.”  Another company’s policy language clearly prohibits “all electronic devices” so there is no confusion over which devices are allowed—they ban them all.

·         Contractors should abide by the same rules as employees. Make sure the policy also covers any contractors working on behalf of the organization and that they are aware of and have signed off on the policy.

·         Enforcement is key.   One NETS member emphasized they make sure their employees and contractors understand “if you break the rules, you don’t work for us.”

For more information on the Strength in Numbers program or to become a participant, visit the NETS website at www.trafficsafety.org.