Should You Check Mobile Phone Records After a Light-Duty Vehicle Accident?

Posted Monday, July 12, 2021

You need safe, defensive drivers in your fleet of non-CDL vehicles. When your employees focus on preventing accidents, you’ll enjoy lower cost of loss, more efficiency, and reduced insurance premiums. Of course, you can’t always count on your employees to prevent accidents. Sometimes they take huge risks like texting or talking on the phone while driving.

Cell phone use of any kind while driving is one of the most dangerous things a person can do. In fact, texting while driving is six times more likely to cause an accident than drunk driving. If your employees are using their cell phones while behind the wheel, they’re putting themselves and your company at major risk.

The best thing to do is prevent this unsafe behavior in the first place. Invest in safety training to educate your drivers on how to be attentive behind the wheel. Preventing an accident is always better than reacting to one.

That being said, you should be prepared for the worst. Let’s tackle some pressing questions on how to handle accidents caused by cell phone use.

Are You Allowed to Check Cell Phone Records After an Accident? And Should You?

You need to get to the root cause of any accident. When you understand what causes your accidents, you can work to prevent them in the first place. That’s why it’s crucial for you to know if an employee was using his or her cell phone before a collision occurred.

Unfortunately, obtaining phone records isn’t always simple.

If you issue company-owned phones to your employees, you absolutely can check cell phone records during your post-accident investigation. You may not have the same rights when it comes to your employees’ personal phones, though.

Depending on your state’s laws, you will likely need a subpoena to check an employee’s personal phone records. Alternatively, you may be able to access their phone records with their written consent. It can be a cumbersome process either way.

An easy solution to this problem is to use event video recording devices. These systems:

Record what’s happening in and out of the vehicle
Save this footage only when there is a sudden stop or collision
Allow you to see the root cause of near-misses and collisions
Most of the time, event video recording devices work to absolve you or your driver of culpability. However, they also come in handy for you to see unsafe behaviors like cell phone use that cause accidents.

Regardless of how you do it, you should try to determine if cell phone use played a role in any collision.

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Can I Terminate an Employee Based on Cell Phone Use

This is a resounding yes. Not only that, but you likely should.

When people behave in an unsafe way, it’s for one of two reasons:

Ignorance (they just didn’t know any better)
They made a bad decision (they recognized the risk and did it anyway)
Most accidents happen because of ignorance. People can’t do the right thing if they don’t know what the right thing to do is. That’s why defensive driving and safety training is essential. You need to educate your employees on safe behaviors so they can prevent accidents.

However, if someone is willing to accept the risk of texting or talking on the phone while driving, there’s little you can do to change that. They have a high-risk tolerance and it is unwise to put them behind the wheel for your company.

Cell phone use while driving should be grounds for immediate termination at your company.

Am I Covered Under Insurance if My Employee Was on His or Her Phone Before a Collision?

Yes, but it will cost you.

When your employees cause accidents, your premiums will likely rise. Your insurance company sees you as a bigger risk so they charge you more for coverage.

That’s why educating your employees on safe practices is important. Preventing the accident in the first place can reduce your insurance premiums and save you tons of money from cost of loss.

Should I Have a Cell Phone Policy That My Employees Must Sign?

If you are going to punish your employees for cell phone use behind the wheel (and you should), you need to make that clear from the onset.

Upon hire, you should have clearly expressed safety rules your employees must follow. Have these written down. Give them to your employees to read, review, discuss with you, and commit to.

Have them sign the document and keep it in their employee file. Better yet, give them a copy to keep on hand. Ask them to review it periodically so they remember the commitment they make.

Having a cell phone policy can help your company in a lawsuit if the worst were to happen. More importantly, though, it can help prevent these accidents in the first place. When you put an employee behind the wheel for you, lives are in their hands. You need them to commit to this responsibility.

Prevention is Better Than Reaction
If an employee is involved in a collision, it’s important to determine why the accident happened. Obtaining cell phone records can be an important part of this process. However, this shouldn’t be your focus.

You want to prevent accidents, not just react to them.

Accidents are caused by people’s unsafe behaviors. When your employees behave unsafely, they are more likely to cause an accident. When they behave safely, they are likely to prevent an accident.

Fewer accidents mean reduced cost of loss, a more efficient company, and happier and healthier employees.

Train your employees on essential safe driving behaviors and your company will prosper.

Source: Automotive Fleet

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