In response to President Obama’s October 2009 Executive Order directing federal employees not to engage in activities such as text messaging while operating government-owned vehicles, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Department of Transportation have launched a campaign to end distracted driving on the job.
The program was announced by OSHA Assistant Secretary of Labor Dr. David Michaels at the Symposium on Occupationally-Related Distracted Driving held earlier this spring. Distracted driving, including cell phone use and text messaging while driving, is a major cause of motor vehicle crashes and consistently ranks among the leading causes of worker fatalities. According to the Department of Transportation, more than 5,400 people died in crashes linked to distracted driving in 2009. Dr. Michaels called for employers to take actions to protect employees by prohibiting texting while driving on the job and cited the legal responsibility employers have to maintain a safe workplace.
Under OSHA’s new enforcement strategy, “companies are in violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act if, by policy or practice, they require texting while driving, or create incentives that encourage or condone it, or they structure work so that texting is a practical necessity for workers to carry out their job.” OSHA will begin investigating credible reports of employer violation and accident reports and will issue fines and penalties to companies requiring or condoning texting while driving. In states where cell phone use while driving is restricted or banned, on the job accidents involving illegal cell phone use may be excluded from workers’ compensation coverage.
Louisiana’s Laws on Distracted Driving
• Handheld ban for drivers with a learner’s permit or intermediate license regardless of age
• Ban on all cell phone use (handheld and Hands-free) for novice drivers (Primary law for drivers under 18)
• Ban on all cell phone use (handheld and hands-free) for bus drivers (Primary law)
• Ban on texting for all drivers (Primary law)
• Preemption Law prohibits localities from enacting distracted driving bans
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