Since 2003, a steadily increasing percentage of ORC Worldwide (a Washington-based safety and health consultancy) member companies have implemented policies or guidance covering cell phone use while driving on company business, according to an ORC Worldwide web posting. The post pointed to three surveys conducted by ORC in 2003, 2007 and 2009.

In 2003, 70 percent of 40 member companies surveyed had a policy or guidance regarding the use of cell phones; by 2009 the percentage had climbed to 93 percent.

Along with this increased attention to cell phone use, a growing number of ORC member companies have implemented a complete ban on the use of cell phones while driving on company business. In 2003 only 27 percent of the companies surveyed prohibited cell phone use, but last year 43 percent of ORC members surveyed reported they had instituted a complete ban on the use of cell phones.

A significant minority of companies restricts the use of cell phones to hands-free devices, but there is no clear trend to this policy. Seven years ago, 30 percent of participants allowed hands-free cell phones, in 2007 the number climbed to 48 percent, and last year it dropped down to 21 percent.

Companies appear to be struggling with how to enforce the new restrictions on cell phone use, however. In the two most recent surveys, only about half the companies surveyed indicated they had some kind of enforcement mechanism in place. Many companies reported they had difficulty figuring out how to enforce the ban on cell phone use. The most frequent method used by organizations to verify compliance is to conduct post-incident investigations to determine if the driver had been using a cell phone.

Despite the growing attention to the problem of distracted driving, opinion is divided as to whether the new cell phone policies are working. In the most recent survey, participants were asked, “Do you consider your company’s cell phone policy to be successful?” Only half the respondents answered, “Yes.”

While the surveys indicate some clear long-term trends among survey particpants, the results may not accurately reflect the cell phone policies of all ORC member companies. Participation in the surveys was voluntary and participation rates ranged from approximately 15 to 40 percent of all ORC members.