Did the title of my post get your attention? Believe me, I wish texting and driving couldn’t destroy your business, but it unfortunately has the potential to. In this month’s post, I’m taking a break from writing about technical SEO, Paid Search, Social Media Marketing, etc. to talk about something that can make even your worst search-related problem look like a walk in the park.
Last week I was driving on 95 behind a car that suddenly started to swerve from the middle lane to the left lane, and then back across to the right lane. After a minute or so behind the person, I decided to pass the car to get away from the problem. As I passed the car, I glanced over and saw the driver on his mobile phone. He was typing, so he was either texting someone, emailing someone, or maybe even checking Twitter. I don’t know about you, but experiencing that first hand on 95 at a relatively high rate of speed really brought home the danger of texting and driving. It would only take a split second for that person to slam into another car and possibly cause a fatal accident. And for what? To check the latest retweet or DM?
No Shortage of Examples, With Statistics to Back Up The Problem
You don’t have to look far to read about tragedies that resulted from texting and driving. For example, a 47 year old woman who ran a red light while texting and driving and struck an SUV carrying a family of four (killing two people, a 4 year old girl and her 35 year old mother). Or how about a 19 year old who was texting and driving and caused another car to spin out of control (killing two men, 38 and 50 years old). Or the story of Sam Page, whose sister slammed into a telephone pole and died as they were texting back and forth. The list of stories goes on and on…
In addition to the heartbreaking stories, the statistics about the effects of texting and driving are mind-blowing. For example, a study by the Viginia Tech Transportation Institute (PDF) found that drivers who text and drive are 23.2 times as likely to be involved in a crash or near crash event than non-distracted drivers. In addition, Car and Driver ran a test of their own, showing the delay in reaction time and how much further a driver traveled beyond the point they should have stopped when texting and driving. The reaction time for both a 22 year old and 37 year old while texting and driving were worse than being impaired by alcohol. They also traveled 31 feet and 319 feet further than they should have when texting and driving at 70 mph. Imagine the damage you could do if you needed to stop at one point, but ended up traveling another 319 feet!
Although the concept of texting and driving is relatively new, the abundance of disturbing cases has pushed some states to act. You can check out txtresponsibly.org to view the states have passed laws against texting while driving and there’s even a recent push against truckers and texting (which obviously makes complete sense). But as we all know, there’s a difference between passing legislation and actually changing driver behavior.
The Business Impact of Texting and Driving
I think most of us clearly understand that you can either kill other people or kill yourself when texting and driving. That’s obviously the worst case scenario, but there is another dangerous aspect of getting into an accident from texting (although not as grim as killing someone or being killed). I’m referring to the potential business impact.
Let’s say that you get through an accident relatively unscathed. Maybe you just end up with some minor injuries and the other people involved are still alive (although their cars are damaged and they possibly have a broken bone or two). Are you really out of the woods? What’s the potential impact for you professionally? What can happen to the business that you worked tirelessly to build, the job you’ve been working 70 hours a week for, and your reputation? Unfortunately, in our litigious society you’re far from being out of the woods. Instead, you can find yourself neck deep in the woods. And the woods I’m referring to aren’t filled with furry little bunnies and cute woodland creatures. Instead, the legal woods are filled with rabid lawyers, judges who don’t like young punks with iPhones, and people looking to take advantage of our legal system. Yes, welcome to America.
Business Owners Take Heed
If you are a consultant, run your own business, run an agency, or if you’re an executive at a company, you need to address the problem of texting and driving now (before you’re neck deep in the scary woods I just mentioned). And by the way, this also relates to your employees and not just your own behavior. On the flip side, if you’re an employee at a company and have a company-issued cell phone, you should also listen up. The legal system is a two way street, and you can also find yourself in court. More on that below.
Texting While Driving, A Legal Perspective
Last year I wrote a post titled, “Lawyers, Guns, and Twitter: Who Owns Your Twitter Account?” which addressed social media account ownership. In the post, I introduced various scenarios along with my view of who actually owned the accounts created and managed by employees. I gave my perspective as an online marketer and then I asked a lawyer I know from Princeton (Mike Pisauro) to review the scenarios and give his input from a legal-standpoint. Needless to say, we didn’t see eye to eye on all the topics. I decided to use a similar format with this post. I’m going to list several potential business scenarios regarding texting and driving and then have Mike give his legal view.