The Department of Transportation recently launched a national campaign to stop texting while driving and other distracted driving hazards. In turn, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently issued a reminder to employers that it is their legal responsibility under the Occupational Safety and Health Act to safeguard drivers at work -- "[e]ach employer ... shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees." OSHA warns that it is prepared to act quickly if it receives a "credible complaint that an employer requires texting while driving or organizes work so that texting is a practical necessity," confirming that it will investigate and issue citations and penalties where necessary to end this practice.

OSHA recommends employers send a clear message to workers and supervisors that the employer neither requires nor condones texting while driving by: 

  • Prohibiting texting while driving -- declare vehicles "text-free zones" and emphasize that commitment to their workers, customers, and communitiesEstablishing work procedures and rules that do not make it necessary for workers to text while driving in order to carry out their duties
  • Setting up clear procedures, times, and places for drivers' safe use of texting and other technologies for communicating with managers, customers, and others
  • Incorporating safe communications practices into worker orientation and training
  • Eliminating financial and other incentive systems that encourage workers to text while driving

OSHA provides some startling statistics regarding distracted driving:

  • Distracted driving crashes killed more than 3,000 people and injured 416,000 in 2010
  • Reaction time is delayed for a driver talking on a cell phone as much as it is for a driver who is legally drunk
  • More texting leads to more crashes -- with each additional 1 million text messages, fatalities from distracted driving rose more than 75%
  • People under the age of 20 are involved in more fatal crashes due to distractions than any other age group
  • Studies show that drivers who send or receive text messages focus their attention away from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds - at 55 mph, this is equivalent to driving the length of a football field blindfolded

As of May 2014, the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety reports that:

  • Talking on a hand-held cellphone while driving is banned in 12 states (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Washington, and West Virginia) and the District of Columbia
  • The use of all cellphones by novice drivers is restricted in 37 states and the District of Columbia
  • Text messaging is banned for all drivers in 43 states and the District of Columbia. In addition, novice drivers are banned from texting in 4 states (Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas)

Be safe!

Additional Resources: OSHA, Distracted Driving: No Texting; U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety & Health Administration, Distracted Driving; Insurance Institute For Highway Safety, Distracted Driving (Summary of State Laws)