As of January 1, an amendment was implemented for the Illinois Vehicle Code that will affect driving laws in the state.  The amendment follows what many other states have already passed:  prohibiting driving while using an electronic communication device.  This amendment will still allow for exceptions, such as hands-free devices and two way radios, but if a person is pulled over and ticketed for an offense on company time, the employer might be held liable.

Under the Hands Free Act, if one of your employees is not complying with the driving laws and is operating a vehicle while on company time, then the employer might be held liable for the employees non-compliance.  The Illinois Vehicle Code, which considers operating a mobile phone without a hands free option a misdemeanor, indicates that the individual engaging in the crime, or individuals who aid or abet in the commission of that crime can be held liable.

The actual wording from the vehicle code is as follows:

“Sec. 16-202. Offenses by persons owning or controlling vehicles. It is unlawful for the owner, or any other person, employing or otherwise directing the driver of any vehicle to require or knowingly to permit the operation of such vehicle upon a highway in any manner contrary to law. (625 ILCS 5/16-202)”

For companies based in Illinois, even if your employee is operating his or her own vehicle and gets into an accident, is ticketed for cell phone use, etc, while on company time, the employer may be liable for that employees actions because the employee was technically “at work.”  Make sure your employees are up to date with all driving laws.

It’s important for companies in this state to review their policies and update them accordingly.  To be completely safe, the policy should outline specifically what this new amendment mandates, and that the only way an employee should be on a phone while driving is if they are on a hand held device.  For more information on this new amendment to the Illinois Vehicle Code and how it will affect current driving laws, please visit Seyfarth Shaw, LLC.

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