Statistics reported in April—Distracted Driving Awareness Month—show distracted driving has become an increasingly common and fatal hazard. According to the 2023 Travelers Risk Index 70% of survey respondents reported they feel distracted driving is more of a problem now than it was a few years ago. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) determined 8% of fatal crashes and 14% of injury crashes were distraction-affected crashes as of 2020. That year, distracted driving also killed 587 nonoccupants, including pedestrians, pedal cyclists and others. In 2021, distracted driving accidents killed 3,522 people. Although many of us know distracted driving accidents are increasing, the causes may serve as a somber reminder to avoid these distractions while driving.
CAUSES OF DISTRACTED DRIVING
Using Our Phones
Not surprisingly, cell phone use is a primary cause of distracted driving accidents. Although many of us are guilty of texting, talking, or checking emails on our phones while driving—general use of the internet as well such as posting to, or scrolling through, social media, or even taking or watching videos—is also a common cause of distracted driving. Among those surveyed in the 2023 Travelers Risk Index agreed electronic devices were among the leading causes of distraction. About 79% of drivers admitted to making or receiving calls, about 56% of drivers admitted to reading a text message or email, and 74% admitted to looking at map directions on a smartphone, over a quarter of drivers admitted to posting social media updates (28%) or taking photos or videos while on the road (27%).
Working on the Road
In this post-pandemic era, many more are working remotely, this includes reading and writing emails throughout the day. Unfortunately, many of us do this while driving. The Travelers survey revealed that 32% of business leaders are concerned about their employees using technology while driving for work purposes, up from 26% last year. Notably, 37% of workers surveyed said they had taken work-related calls, texts, or emails while driving. Of these workers, a significant portion (44%) said they felt an email might be a work-related emergency and that they felt the need to always to be available via their cell phone, even while driving.
Fatigue and Stress
The Travelers Index also showed emotional distraction—drowsiness, fatigue, and work-related stress—play significant roles in distracted driving. More than 75% of drivers said they had experienced stress or intense emotions while behind the wheel, and 62% said they had driven while drowsy.
As more states implement and enforce distracted driving laws, insurance premiums continue to be impacted by reported violations. According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), auto insurance premiums have increased 16% nationally since 2011, correlating with increased distracted driving accidents. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), texting while driving is banned in 48 states and the District of Columbia, and 36 states and the District of Columbia have bans specifically targeting young drivers. While the financial penalties for distracted driving tickets and violations range widely from state to state, those infractions go on a driver's record which impact the driver's insurance premiums.
SOLUTIONS TO DISTRACTED DRIVING
Studies have found that a straightforward way to reduce distracted driving is for passengers to speak up when they witness distracted driving behaviors. A recent Erie Insurance Survey found that even though texting while driving is illegal in most areas, 27% of respondents said they feel it is considered socially acceptable – either very acceptable (9%) or somewhat acceptable (18%) to text while driving. About 87% of those Erie surveyed said that passengers should tell drivers to stop texting because the problem will only be solved when it becomes socially unacceptable.
The takeaway: SPEAK UP. When you are riding in a car as a passenger, your life is on the line. Never feel you do not have the right to ask or tell the driver to stop texting or actively using their cell phone while driving, even a rideshare driver who is doing more than simply looking at the map on their phone. Your safety should be your priority and is more important than avoiding potentially offending your driver.
New Technology Can Lower Risks
A March report from the National Distracted Driving Coalition showcases existing and emerging technologies that have the potential to reduce distracted driving risks, accidents, and fatalities associated with distracted driving. The report found that early research from the Highway Loss Data Institute suggests vehicles equipped with driver-monitoring systems (DMS), which use a driver-facing camera to detect distraction and drowsiness, will have fewer insurance claims. DMS could be integrated with other safety systems (lane change and blind spot warnings) to automatically increase the use of existing safety measures when a driver appears distracted.
Focus Is the Answer
We share these statistics, causes, and solutions to distracted driving to remind drivers how important focus and attention is on the road. When driving, put the phone away (in the glove compartment with the sound turned off is best) and put work or other obligations out of mind. Safe, defensive driving requires your undivided attention. Focused, you may be able to avoid an accident caused by your own distraction or a fellow distracted driver. If you have been in a car accident and have questions about the cause of your accident and/or its impact on your ability to recover on an insurance claim against your own automobile insurer or that of the other driver, never hesitate to contact us for a car accident claim review. We never charge any fee or cost, or require any obligation on your part, to simply review your claim and answer any questions you may have.
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