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Distracted driving month road fatalities at a record high

Distracted driving month road fatalities at a record highEveryone knows distracted driving is dangerous and – in too many instances – deadly. Yet we continue to do it. Most of us simply believe that “it won’t happen to me because I can safely multitask.” The numbers, however, show otherwise. In the U.S., April brings Distracted Driving Awareness Month, sponsored by the National Safety Council (NSC), and it’s anything but a celebration. With the number of road fatalities at a record high, reducing distracted driving crashes and fatalities is a shared concern for both law enforcement and auto insurers.

A national crisis

In February 2022, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released its early estimate of traffic fatalities for the first nine months of 2021. The report projected that an estimated 31,720 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes from January through September 2021, an increase of approximately 12% more than the first nine months of 2020. How many of these can be attributed to distracted driving is unknown.

As I mentioned above, many drivers have the “it won’t happen to me” attitude when it comes to car crashes because they believe their multitasking capabilities will protect them. Some may think that because they use hands-free devices while driving that they are immune from distractions, but there are four categories of distracted driving and three of them are not necessarily related to what the driver is doing with her or his hands:

  • Visual – looking at something other than the road
  • Auditory – hearing something not related to driving
  • Manual – manipulating something other than the steering wheel
  • Cognitive – thinking about something other than driving

What insurers can do:Consistent communication with your policyholders about the dangers of distracted driving, and to a smaller extent, the impact of violations on premiums, is key.

A public health epidemic

Even as Americans drove less during the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 40,000 people died in traffic crashes in 2020 — the largest projected number of fatalities since 2007 — with many of these attributed to distracted driving. What’s more, because it’s difficult for law enforcement to prove distracted driving after an accident occurs, it’s believed that the number of crashes and fatalities caused by distracted driving are under reported.

Despite the heavy toll distracted driving takes on drivers, passengers and pedestrians, only a little more than half of drivers are willing change their behaviors. Incredibly, according to a survey by NSC fielded in September 2020, drivers were more likely to wear a mask in public (76%) than were willing to not use their mobile phones while driving (62%).

What insurers can do: Leverage the predictability of violation data so you can better anticipate future risks and proactively adjust your rating plans. Further, if you offer incentives for safe driving, make sure your customers are aware of the opportunity.

Costs of distracted driving

Since its inception in 2010, NSC’s Distracted Driving Awareness Month has sought to spread the word that distracted driving is making our roads increasingly dangerous. Throughout April, LexisNexis® Risk Solutions will be sharing data and commentary about the costs of distracted driving and how violations can affect claims frequency and severity, making an impact on your loss ratios. We’ll also discuss if modern technology, like Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) features, impact how we behave when behind the wheel. 

In the meantime, please contact us with any questions about our auto insurance data solutions at 800.458.9197 or email insurance.sales@lexisnexisrisk.com.