Driving Matters: Cell Phone Laws in Effect Soon

Starting July 1, it will be illegal in California to drive while using a cell phone, unless the phone is equipped with a hands-free device. Also as of July 1, teens under age 18 can’t drive while using a cell phone—even using a hands-free device. Teens also can’t drive while using any other mobile service device, such as a pager, laptop with mobile data access, or a handheld device like an iPod Touch, iPhone, or Blackberry.

If you have employees who drive as part of their jobs and frequently need to make business calls while on the road, make sure they have a hands-free device now. Several other states (including New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and others) also have restrictions on using mobile phones while driving. So if your employees work out of state, check the laws there to be sure you’re in compliance.

You can download a sample cellular phone policy from California Employer Advisor. It’s free.

You may want to take safety a step further than the law strictly requires by encouraging employees to avoid using their cell phones for business or personal reasons while driving, whether they’re using a hands-free device or not. Phone conversations while driving can cause big distractions, which can lead to tragic accidents. And if the call that caused the distraction occurred while the employee was working, you and the employee could wind up embroiled in an expensive lawsuit with an injured third party.

The Resources You Need

To ensure compliance with the new laws and the safety of your employees and others, it’s a good idea to have a written cell phone policy outlining when cell phone use is and isn’t permissible. You can require employees to sign an acknowledgement that they have received and read it.

Don’t have the time or resources to craft a policy? Download a sample cell phone policy from our publication Cal/OSHA Compliance Advisor. You can use the policy as a jumping-off point and tailor it to meet the needs of your organization. It’s available at no charge—but only for a limited time—so download it today.