Last Updated 5/6/2020
Issue: Distracted driving has been an issue since the invention of the automobile, but with advancements in technology, it is now an epidemic in the United States. Although the use of technology is the most familiar form of distraction behind the wheel, distracted driving is operating a vehicle while doing anything else such as looking after children or pets, eating, reading, applying makeup, or adjusting the radio. In other words, distracted driving involves anything that diverts attention from the road.
With advancements in mobile technology and increasing reliance on and heavy use of smart phones, distracted driving is intensifying. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 9% of fatal crashes were attributed to distracted driving in 2017. That same year, 3,166 people were killed in crashes involving distracted drivers. In addition to the tragedy of distracted driving fatalities, the increase in accidents equates to higher insurance costs. The higher the accident rate, the more claims insurers have to pay. Insurers in turn transfer these costs to customers in the form of higher premiums, often based on information about traffic violations and accidents from driving records. Nationally, auto insurance premiums have increased 16% since 2011, correlating with the increase in distracted driving accidents.
Status: Many states have already taken action to stop distracted driving. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 48 states ban text messaging for drivers. Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia ban all cell phone use by novice drivers while 18 prohibit all drivers from using hand-held devices while driving. In 2017, Texas required all new drivers over the age of 18 to take a course on distracted driving supplied by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
To raise awareness of this issue, the Kansas Insurance Department partnered with universities across the state to advocate for safe driving with their "Don't Text #JustDrive" campaign in 2016. Missouri and South Carolina launched similar initiatives in 2017. In 2018, the NAIC launched a distracted driving awareness campaign and "Keep the Road Code" pledge inviting consumers to stay focused and responsible behind the wheel.
Additionally, for companies whose employees drive as part of their regular duties, distracted driving can be an extra liability to consider. According to the National Safety Council, many companies have been found liable for millions of dollars when their employees have caused distracted driving accidents while on the clock. To reduce these liabilities, employers may consider adopting cell phone policies or installing apps to block the use of company devices while driving.
The Dangers of Distracted Driving
April 2019, Federal Communications Commission
Distracted Driving - Cellphones and Texting
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
State Distracted Driving Laws
Governors Highway Safety Association
Distracted Driving at Work
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Distracted Driving for Employers
National Safety Council
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
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