When employees use hand-held cell phones while driving, whether to text message, read and respond to e-mails, or even make phone calls, they are posing a serious danger to themselves, other motorists, and the company’s bottom line.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), on-the-job crashes cost employers more than $24,500 per crash, $150,000 per injury, and $3.6 million per fatality. And distracted driving caused by hand-held mobile device use is an emerging contributor to these accidents.
Employers are often held liable in distracted driving cases because of a legal doctrine known as “vicarious liability,” which charges employers with legal responsibility if the negligent act is committed by an employee acting within the “general scope” of his or her employment.
Also at stake for fleets is the risk of penalties and fees for violating state laws cracking down on cell phone use while driving. As of press time, 33 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam have banned text messaging for all drivers. Eight states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving. In addition, several other states have anti-distracted driving legislation pending.
For the latest listing of state laws banning cell phone use, go to www.distraction.gov/state-laws/index.html.
While a growing number of fleets have enacted strict policies governing cell phone use while driving, the challenge is this: How do you enforce these policies — especially if you’re managing fleets consisting of dozens, or hundreds, or even several thousand drivers?
Here are six mobile applications that automatically disable certain functionality within wireless devices while a vehicle is in operation, equipping fleets of all sizes with a practical tool to enforce policies that reduce distracted driving accidents and minimize risk exposure.
Several applications are available to help curb cell phone use while driving, including:
- Sprint’s Drive First
- FleetSafer Mobile
- Kyrus Mobile
Sprint's Drive First Application
Available in third quarter 2011 for Android smart phones for $2 per month, Sprint’s exclusive Drive First application disables some of the phone’s functionality when a driving situation is detected, locking the driver’s cell phone screen and redirecting calls to voice mail, while allowing access to three key contacts and three mobile applications, such as GPS navigation or music apps. It also blocks text message alerts and auto-responds to the message sender that the driver is currently unavailable. The system gives business administrators online access to configure Drive First for employees’ mobile devices.
FleetSafer Mobile Application
FleetSafer Mobile is an application designed by ZoomSafer (now Aegis Mobility) specifically for commercial fleets, available for Blackberry, Windows, and (coming soon) for Android mobile devices. The software automatically locks the phone during driving to prevent calls, texts, and e-mails. It also sends auto-reply messages to incoming texts and e-mails. Customizable and flexible to enforce most corporate distracted driving policies, FleetSafer Mobile can be triggered either by telematics, Bluetooth, or GPS systems.
DriveSafe.ly is a mobile application created by iSpeech that reads text messages and e-mails out loud in real-time and automatically responds without drivers touching the mobile phone. It’s available for Blackberry, Android, and iPhone (and coming soon to Windows-powered mobile phones). Price per phone is $79.90 annually or $7.99 per month.
Once Textecution recognizes that the phone is traveling faster than 10 mph, it disables the phone’s texting features so text messages cannot be sent or received. The app is available for Android devices for a one-time cost of $9.99.
Instead of using GPS to determine vehicle movement, Cellcontrol leverages Bluetooth-enabled technology that directly integrates with the vehicle’s onboard diagnostics to determine motion and implement policy. Compatible with more than 1,000 devices, Cellcontrol disables more than the cell phone; it also prevents distracted driving from other mobile devices, including laptops and tablets, which may tempt drivers to take their eyes off the road.
Kyrus Mobile offers its KyrusFleet application, which disables texting and other distracting applications on cell phones and other mobile devices. KyrusFleet enganges what the company calls "Safe Mode" automatically when a given vehicle starts moving. The system administrator can configure specific settings based on company policy. KyrusFleet does not track employee location, read text messages, scan emails, web traffic, or monitor phone calls or record driving behavior. KyrusFleet works on phones running Android 2.2 or newer; Blackberry 5.x and newer; Apple iOS 5.0 and newer; and Flip and Feature phones running Java or BREW.
Did You Know?
Consider the prevalence and dangers of distracted driving based on these statistics compiled by Distraction.gov, the official U.S. government website for distracted driving:
Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves.
Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
In 2009, 5,474 people were killed on U.S. roadways and an estimated additional 448,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes that were reported to have involved distracted driving. Source: Fatality Analysis Reporting System. Twenty percent of injury crashes in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving.
Using a cell phone while driving, whether it’s hand-held or hands-free, delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the 0.08 percent legal limit.
Source: University of Utah
What’s Your Distracted Driving Policy?
Here is an example of Sprint’s Employee Pledge: “I will set a good example and engage in safe driving practices in my personal life by avoiding risky behaviors like texting or e-mailing while I am operating a motor vehicle. When I’m behind the wheel, I will keep my focus on driving.”
Note: The original version of this article lised iZUP as a provider. The original text from the article for this company is below.
iZUP Application (No longer in business)
Developed by Illume software, iZUP holds incoming and outgoing calls, texts, and e-mails when it detects that users are moving faster than 5 mph. Drivers are allowed to pick one application, such as navigation, when iZUP is on, while the administrator is equipped to monitor compliance, edit settings, and receive alerts online. iZUP is available for Blackberry and Android devices for $2.95 per month.