In North Carolina, effective December 1, 2009, it will be unlawful to drive a motor vehicle and use a mobile telephone or other similar digital technology for email, texting, access to the internet or games. The law sets forth limitations as to what type of electronic information is or is not allowed while driving. The law makes it unlawful to
- Manually enter multiple letters or text as a means of communicating with another person; or
- Read any electronic mail or text message sent or stored;
- However, this limitation does not apply to any name or number stored in the mobile telephone or other digital device nor to any caller identification information.
Thankfully, the prohibitions of this law do not apply if your motor vehicle is parked or stopped. This raises the question as to whether you can text and email while your vehicle is stopped at a traffic sign or traffic light. The law also is not applicable to emergency personnel.
The law does allow the use of global positioning systems or wireless communication devices used to send or receive data as part of a digital dispatch system. The law also allows the use of voice operated technology which will grow in popularity.
The Need for an Employment Policy
Restricting the use of technology for sending and receiving text messages, emails, and other similar communications while driving makes sense. As a business concern, we need our employees to be accessible while out of the office. Email and/or texting are obviously an easy way to stay in touch. However, safety requires more concentration to driving. The concern for employers is potential liability. There have been multiple accidents across the country where one or more of the drivers were accessing text messages or emails while driving.
This has become and will remain a likely source of liability for employers. Employers should have a comprehensive written policy which addresses the use of electronic communications while driving on behalf of the employer. After the policy is adopted by the employer, the policy should be properly communicated to all of the employees and consistently enforced.
If you have questions or would like us to assist you concerning how to create and enforce a policy to cover the new law, feel free to contact us.