Is Office 365 vehicle integration a distracted driving accident waiting to happen?

Human Resource Executive Online recently reported that Microsoft was introducing Office 365 connectivity to 2017 Mercedes-Benz production vehicles. The application would be accessed through a dashboard infotainment system created by Harman. Microsoft is also working with Toyota, Nissan, Volvo, and other automakers and component manufacturers to make this product more available. Will this technological advancement make it easier to work on-the-go or will it encourage distracted driving?

The new Office 365 platform will allow drivers to schedule meetings, hear and respond to emails, automatically join conference calls without having to manually input the phone number and passcode and easily manage tasks and events throughout the day. Drivers can also hold Skipe conferences when in park mode or on the road if driving an autonomous vehicle, according to the article.

Harman suggests the above tasks can be completed without compromising safety but Matthew Wride CEO of Decisionwise suggests that embedding the technology in the car could make the employer’s liability more obvious in the event of a distracted driving accident.

Juries have shown that they are not afraid to hold employers liable for auto accidents caused by employees acting on behalf of the employer. On July 22, 2016 Pennsylvania auto accident lawyer, Jon Ostroff achieved a $5.05 million verdict on behalf of four passengers injured in a 2013 bus accident. The drowsy Greyhound bus driver fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a tractor trailer. CNN reported that Greyhound failed to follow its own safety policies. Ostroff told CNN, “I think Greyhound was more at fault for this crash than the driver who fell asleep behind the wheel because they allowed a dangerous driver to drive.”

Peggy Johnson, Microsoft’s executive vice president of business development believes the new technology will make it both easier and safer for people to work while driving. In a Release, Johnson said that Office 365’s integration to Harman’s connected car systems will provide new productivity solutions as well as transform the driving experience. “By ensuring that Office 365 services are seamlessly integrated with car and driver telematics and performance data, we will allow consumers to be more productive during their driving hours, while enjoying far greater convenience, safety and reliability.”

Wride suggests that employers adopt and enforce policies that prevent employees from conducting business while driving to promote safety and reduce the risk of employer liability for distracted driving. Many employers have already adopted such policies. An average of 3500 organizations participate annually in Drive Safely Work Week. The Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS) has offered organizations the opportunity to promote safe driving habits among employees every October for more than 20 years.

Microsoft Office 365’s dashboard integration features may remove some of the common distractions associate with using a mobile device while driving, but it will not completely eliminate distracted driving. According to End Distracted Driving (EndDD.org) 10% of auto accidents are caused by looking at something inside the vehicle. Only time will tell if Microsoft Office vehicle integration will increase work efficiency and safety or increase the risk of a distracted driving accident.

Posted by Legal Lookout Editor