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August 27, 2004
Cell Phone Laws & Policies Center
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  • Cell phones have become a valuable tool in conducting business as more employees are using them to perform their jobs. Among other things, they help boost productivity by keeping employees connected to the office and to clients. However, cell phones also raise a number of issues involving safety, security, and privacy.

    For employers, there are liability issues. For example, if an employee has an auto accident and harms someone while making a work-related cell phone call, the employer as well as the employee may be found liable. Several lawsuits have been filed against employers as well as the employees themselves who have harmed someone allegedly because of cell phone use while driving and doing business at the same time.

    The best advice for employers is to check state and local laws and to instruct employees in writing not to use cell phones while driving. They should also be instructed that if they receive a cell phone call, they should let voice mail answer it and/or call back when they can stop at a safe area.

    If employees must use cell phones while in their cars, the following safety guidelines may help:

    • Always dial while the car isn't moving.
    • Never use the phone in heavy traffic or bad weather.
    • Use speed dialing as much as possible.
    • Use a hands-free phone.
    • Never look up phone numbers while driving.
    • Never have stressful conversations while driving.
    • Keep your eyes on the road while on the phone.

    Legislative Action

    In legislatures, concerns center on the effects of the increasing use of mobile phones by drivers on the number of highway accidents. Proponents of restrictions on the use of mobile phones while driving point to studies that found the use of such phones contributes to distracted driving and accidents. The authors of one study concluded that talking on the phone while driving can lead to "inattention blindness," or the inability to recognize objects encountered in the driver's visual field.

    Opponents of restrictions say there is insufficient evidence to conclude mobile phones are any different from other distractions to drivers. They also argue against restrictions by saying that the phones offer benefits such as the ability to call for help in the case of an emergency.

    No federal law prohibits drivers from using mobile phones while driving, but some states and local jurisdictions have taken action. States that have set rules have chosen different levels of restrictions. Some states prohibit the use of handheld devices while operating a motor vehicle, but they allow the use of hands-free devices.

    Other states put restrictions on certain drivers, such as bus drivers or young drivers. In 2003, the National Transportation Board recommended that all states bar inexperienced drivers from using mobile phones while driving.

    Many states are collecting data on the role of cell phones in accidents, which may lead to more legislative action.

    In addition, corporations like ExxonMobil are taking note by barring employees from using handheld mobile phones while driving on company business. Read more on this in the White Paper, below.

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