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AMEC Sees Benefits in Strict Cell Phone Policies

June 02, 2009

BOSTONAMEC, a global engineering firm, is just one of several companies that has benefited from increasing policies that restrict employee cell phone usage while driving on company time, according to the Boston Globe. Despite initial reluctance from employees, within a year of the 2005 edict, nearly 84 percent of AMEC workers anonymously reported in a company survey that they have stopped or cut back on talking or texting while driving even outside of work.

Numerous employers are following AMEC's lead and enforcing stricter company driving policies. Some are creating new bans. Others recently tightened existing policies to also ban texting or even hands- free cell phone accessories.

Although early on many companies believed being able to drive while on the phone would increase productivity, now they are "at a point where we better understand the risks involved," said Bill Windsor, associate vice president of safety for Columbus, Ohio-based Nationwide Insurance, as reported by the Globe.

In one of the biggest cases to date, it cost $16 million for Little Rock, Ark.-based Dyke Industries Inc. to settle a lawsuit brought after a salesman, who was driving and phoning, injured an elderly woman in 2001, reported the Globe.

Some companies, however, are taking the strictest approach: banning all electronic devices while driving.

In April, Wilmington, Del.-based DuPont tightened a two-year-old policy allowing hands-free phoning while driving in emergencies or for brief "can't talk now" calls. Now, the use of all electronic devices - even hands-free - is prohibited while "operating a mobile vehicle" on company time. Last year, UPS added texting to a ban on cell phones and driving, even with hands-free devices. "If you receive a call, pull over to a safe spot to take it," the policy says, according to the Globe.

Pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca US, also based in Wilmington, Del., prohibits all use of electronic devices while driving, and makes sales reps driving company cars accountable through written testing on safety policies, according to the Globe. AstraZeneca has 1,000 employees in Massachusetts.

AMEC hasn't tracked whether accident rates have dropped, yet the ban won a ringing endorsement a year after taking effect, when 93 percent of employees said they hadn't experienced a drop in productivity as a result. This may be because employees plan better, making calls before or after trips, and relish the newfound quiet time, spokeswoman Lauren Gallagher told the Globe.

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