August 4, 2009

Distractions Behind the Wheel, Revisited

The other Nicholas Sparks is in a bit of trouble: not the well-known writer, but an obscure 25 year old tow truck driver from upstate New York. The lesser known Sparks has earned himself a place in the Business Hall of Shame when he raised multi-tasking to new heights (or better, depths). He was talking on one cell phone, texting on another(!), when, surprise of surprises, he lost control of his vehicle, smashed into another car, careened across a front lawn and plunged his flatbed tow truck into a swimming pool. The 68 year-old woman driving the other car suffered head injuries but is in good condition; her 8 year old niece suffered minor injuries.

Sparks has been charged with reckless driving, talking on a cell phone and following too closely. He was driving a truck for Adams Towing Company. While I was unable to find an area company listed under this name, I do hope they carry robust liability coverage. The company is clearly guilty of negligence and will pay dearly for their multi-multi-tasking employee.

Driven to Distraction
The New York Times has singled out the use of cell phones while driving as a major danger. They have a begun a series focusing on this new road hazard entitled "Driving to Distraction." In their most recent article, they describe the ubiquitous talking on cells performed by taxi drivers. (My family caught a cab during a downpour in Brooklyn last week; I sat in the front seat and listened to one side of a conversation in an Arabic tongue that was underway when we entered the cab and continued after we had paid and exited.)

While New York City has one of the most stringent laws in the country prohibiting taxi drivers from using cell phones while driving, it is rarely enforced. Fewer than 800 summonses were issued to cab drivers in 2007. If the law were enforced, the annual summonses would run in the hundreds of thousands.

It all comes down to this: anyone who drives can no longer plead ignorance to the dangers of talking/texting and driving. A new and potentially huge liability has emerged for the employers of people who drive in the course of employment. The employers are going to be held accountable for the mistakes of their employees. Property will be damaged and people will be hurt, even killed. In order to avoid liability, management will have to demonstrate that effective cell phone policies have been both promulgated and enforced.

Which leads to one final question: with liability ultimately falling to the insurance companies, what steps have they taken to ensure that policy holders have mitigated this ever-increasing risk? How will their underwriters identify the companies most likely to produce the next Nicholas Sparks - the driver, that is, not the writer.


| 2 Comments

2 Comments

What part of "Just Drive" is so difficult to understand?

A $10,000 deductible on the liability policy if using a cell phone would get their attention!!

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This page contains a single entry by Jon Coppelman published on August 4, 2009 3:00 PM.

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