TextFace battles texting and driving

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 126 views 

Gary Griffin of Weichert Realtors, The Griffin Company has 115 real estate agents in his company and they spend many hours in their cars as they travel to various appointments and real estate listings.

Griffin, like all employers with employees who drive on company time, wants his agents to be safe. That’s why when he heard about services offered through TextFace, he jumped at the chance to have the company’s consultants talk with his agents.

TextFace is a company that offers education, policy development and monitoring services to clients throughout Northwest Arkansas and the United States. The entire focus is to stop people from texting and driving, which is illegal in some states including Arkansas. Spokeswoman Angela Hines said the company also offers a web-based show that demonstrates the effects of people texting and driving (or using the Internet while driving).

TextFace has vehicles equipped with cameras on all sides and they are able to capture pictures of people on public roadways who are texting or using the Internet while driving.

She said privacy is not being violated because the people are on a public roadway and the monitored activity is something that endangers someone else’s life on that public road. The video and pictures can also be used as evidence in an accident or a human resources-related incident in a person’s job if they are driving on behalf of the company.

“Companies want to see, they want to know,” Hines said.

TextFace representatives will sometimes show the video of people texting and driving to prove that it does in fact impair their driving.

“Multi-tasking has moved from behind the desk to behind the wheel and that has created dangerous scenarios on our roadways,” Hines said. “It’s about bringing our observations together with the driver’s perceptions of how well they do. Some people think they do a great job (driving while texting) and that it’s not that big of a deal.”

In reality, texting and driving is 23 times more likely to cause a wreck than non-distracted driving, according to the company’s website. That’s more dangerous than driving while intoxicated.

When a company hires them, the typical scenario is that TextFace employees work face-to-face with the client’s staff to educate them both on the laws and on the dangers involved with texting and driving. The information includes the financial impact of texting and driving, including multi-million dollar lawsuits filed because someone was hurt or killed by a distracted driver.

They then work with professionals from various industries including insurance agents and attorneys to talk about policies the company should develop and enforce regarding driving practices, or if they should re-evaluate decisions such as how much liability coverage to carry.

TextFace also offers monitoring services if there is a specific concern about employees texting and driving.

“In December 2011, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that states pass laws prohibiting drivers’ use of mobile communication devices. This recommendation includes both handheld and hands-free cell phone use,” Hines said.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration agrees and issued this policy:

“Employers should prohibit any work policy or practice that requires or encourages workers to text while driving, or the employers risk being in violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.17 Employers violate the OSH Act if they require their employees to text while driving or organize work so that texting is a practical necessity even if not a formal requirement. Workers may file a confidential complaint with OSHA.”

TextFace employees recently went on a ride-along with the Benton County Sheriff’s Office when the department cracked down on texting and driving. Many people are still unaware of the law or how far it reaches, TextFace and sheriff officials agreed. Any use of the Internet or texting while on an Arkansas roadway is considered a primary offense and that includes anywhere within a school zone, even in the parking lot, Sgt. Corey Coggins said.

Coggins estimated that about 30 to 40 people were stopped in a four or five hour period during the ride-along and most drivers took the information well.

“Most accepted why they were stopped and listened to the information about the dangers,” he said.

Below are two major legal rulings against companies because of texting and driving that TextFace uses in its presentations:

$21.6 Million – Technology company, 2007 crash in Ohio
A jury found the driver and the corporation that owned the company car liable when the driver rear-ended another vehicle on the freeway, causing the vehicle that was struck to cross the median into oncoming traffic lanes. The crash resulted in a fatality at the scene. Cell phone records show that the employee driver who rear- ended the vehicle was using a cell phone at the time of the crash. According to testimony, she may have been talking with her husband.

$1.75 Million – Car dealership, 2007 crash in Florida
A mom was on her way to a Christmas party with her three kids when their minivan was struck by a car that pulled out in front of her. The car’s driver was a salesman on a cell phone. The mom was left with permanently disabling orthopedic and neurological injuries. The settlement was intended to help pay her medical bills and therapy. The car dealership sued has since closed and its assets sold to other dealerships.