Lately, it seems every time you read, watch, or listen to a news outlet, texting and cell phone usage while driving are the major topics of discussion. States are quickly trying to nip this issue in the bud. New York, for example, will enact a statute outlawing texting while driving beginning November 1.
Maine is taking a different route, which could gain some national momentum, by enacting a distracted driver law. This legislation, Senate Bill 15, was signed by Maine’s Governor Baldacci in June 2009 and will take effect on September 12, 2009, and is entitled, “An Act to Establish a Distracted Driver Law.”
According to the new Maine law, a driver fails to maintain control of a vehicle if he/she is engaging in activities that are not necessary to the operation of the vehicle, or activities that impair the ability of the person to safely operate the vehicle.
The new law defines "failure to maintain control of a motor vehicle" as committing a traffic violation or being involved in a reportable accident while engaged in the operation of a motor vehicle while distracted.
Although the law does not specify cell phone use, it is clearly intended to prevent distractions caused by these devices as well as other sources such as eating or drinking, applying makeup, reading a newspaper, texting, etc.
The bottom line is that when a person is behind the wheel of a vehicle, he or she must focus on the duties at hand. Driving takes a level of concentration and there is little room for complacency. Employers must take this role seriously as transportation is the most common cause of death in the workplace. If you operate a fleet of vehicles, have employees on the road for sales calls or deliveries, or even if you ask your employees to drive their personal vehicles for business, developing a fleet plan that will discourage distracting activities while driving is essential. After all, it’s now the law!