Distracted driving is dangerous and continues to kill and injure more people each year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), as a result of distracted driving, 3,450 people were killed in 2016, and hundreds of thousands injured. These numbers continue to rise as technology becomes a larger part of our daily life.
Distracted driving is not a new issue; it includes anything that takes the drivers’ eyes off the road. And, seconds do matter. At 55 miles per hour, looking away from the road for 5 seconds has been compared to driving the length of a football field blindfolded. The introduction of smartphones, smart cars and texting has exponentially increased these dangers– and teenagers present the greatest risk.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) calls it an epidemic and federal, state and local governments are paying attention. For example, Texas now requires new drivers over the age of 18 to take a distracted driver course, Virginia has the “DRIVE SMART” campaign aimed at improving safety, and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) launched a “Keep the Road Code” pledge and campaign. New devices on cars are also helping through new features including blind spot warning systems, lane change alerts, back up warning signals and assisted braking mechanisms.
Companies are stepping up as well. Distracted driving by employees is dangerous and a concern for businesses. Social responsibility, economic liability and public safety are encouraging internal rules and education in the corporate world.
With the knowledge that cellphone interactions while driving are up 57 percent over early studies, the insurance industry is helping to lead some of these initiatives, not only through education but targeted awareness campaigns. A recent study by car insurance search engine, The Zebra, confirmed that motorists ticketed for distracted driving could see their auto insurance premiums increase by an average of 16%, or roughly $226 a year. The study also found that premiums increased by 41% in one state when policyholders are charged with distracted driving violations. Social, criminal and financial implications will continue to grow as a result of distracted driving in our society.
We all need to work together to change these dangerous behaviors through meaningful legislation, targeted media campaigns, and education.
We know how important these issues are and we are trying to do our part. Throughout the year we work to educate Virginians about the dangers of taking their eyes and mind off the road. We discuss not only the risks of cell phone use but eating, drinking, grooming, reading and even tending to pets and children while driving.