Local attorney urges Chamber of Commerce members to implement policies on distracted driving

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Wayne Hogan, a personal injury attorney at Terrell Hogan Law Office, recently advised a group of local business professionals to implement policies that prohibit employees from using cell phones or other forms of distraction while driving.

“This is something to take very seriously,” said Hogan at a Jan. 26 luncheon hosted by the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce Beaches Division and the Ponte Vedra Beach Division of the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce. “From your standpoint, it is something for you to consider because you have, in a business with personnel driving, vicarious liability.”

Hogan told the audience that he started speaking about this issue after a distracted driver killed his friend’s daughter in 2009. He said his friend established a program where lawyers across the country visit schools to try to change the behavior of students in regards to the use of cell phones or other devices while driving. Hogan said a collection of lawyers, including himself, have spoken to 500,000 students since the program started.

“Nearly 4,000 people every year die as a result of distracted driving-caused accidents,” Hogan said. “Almost half a million people every year are seriously injured as a result of the use of this kind of device or some other device that’s in the vehicle. It’s an epidemic.”

Hogan and his colleagues realized that this issue isn’t limited to students. So, they decided to amplify the message to the workforce as well. As a result, his firm created the Terrell Hogan Law Distracted Driving Awareness Campaign, which offers complimentary distracted driving presentations for both teens and the workforce.

Business implications

Many companies, Hogan said, expect their employees to answer their phones while driving and are unaware of the potential risks they face. If a company were to be found vicariously liable in a distracted driving-caused accident, Hogan said, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) would fine the business $70,000 for structuring a workplace that presented these hazards. Next, the company’s insurance rates would increase, and the employee’s workers compensation costs would kick in. The company could also potentially face a lawsuit and ultimately punitive damages.

To avoid such a situation, Hogan recommended that businesses first avoid structuring employee work schedules in a way that requires them to use their phones while driving. He then advised them to create a policy for their respective businesses, ensure that their employees understand it and agree to abide by it, and develop a plan to enforce and monitor the policy.

“These things are going to happen until we have driverless cars,” said Hogan, who offered to speak to any specific business about the issue. “We need to try and do everything we can to prevent them.”

According to the Terrell Hogan Law Office website, the Terrell Hogan Distracted Driving Awareness Campaign has reached nearly 6,500 teens and adults on the First Coast through its presentations.

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