It’s an all too common theme: You consider yourself to be a safe driver. Almost all of us do. But within minutes of getting into your car and pulling out onto the highway you’ve already fiddled with your car’s radio, programmed your GPS for a meeting location, and made two calls on your cellphone.
You have now become a distracted driver.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHSTA) defines distracted driving as any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the radio, entertainment or navigation system—anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving.
The statistics are staggering. According to the National Safety Council, more than 40,000 fatalities occurred on U.S. roadways in 2016, and distracted driving was a major contributor. According to data from a NHTSA survey, only about 20% of drivers ages 18-20 said texting does not affect their driving. Further, nearly 30% of drivers ages 21-34 said texting has no impact. This is astounding when the National Safety Council (NSC) reports that up to 94% of all car crashes are caused by driver error and at any moment, 7% of drivers are using cell phones.
April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Throughout the month, law enforcement, law firms, nonprofits and insurers across the country are uniting under the same mission encourage everyone to focus on driving so they reach their destination safely.
Advanced driver-assistance systems play a big role
Advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) are designed to help the driver in the driving process, such as lane departure warning indicators, brake-assist, and even systems that take over control of the vehicle to avoid collisions. While ADAS should increase car and road safety, the 2017 usage-based insurance (UBI) study from LexisNexis showed that these systems could lull drivers into a false sense of security. The study found that “a substantial number of consumers indicated distraction as one of their concerns regarding the number and variety of features their cars offer.” As a result, half of Connected Car owners “have disabled or would like to disable some or all of their ADAS features.” So, consumers, auto manufacturers and insurers alike should take the time to fully understand the safety performance of these features.
Distracted driving impacts insurance rates
Distracted driving also plays a significant role in determining auto insurance rates and coverage. An analysis of LexisNexis internal telematics data shows that the more a consumer displays distracted driving behaviors, the worse his/her overall driving score.
Through normalized telematics data from multiple sources, the LexisNexis U.S. Connected Car Team tracked a number of trends around distracted driving. The team leveraged the LexisNexis distracted driving scoring model to analyze telematics data from 4,500 drivers and assess their level of distraction. Furthering NHTSA’s findings, the team also found that:
- The half of drivers with the most number of screen turn-ons-and-offs, those with more numbers of calls per hour made while driving, and those who spent more time on calls while driving, were respectively 34%, 46% and 49% more likely to have a historical claim in the past 2 years.
- The younger the driver is, the more distracted they are by their phone, with drivers ages 16-25 spending the most time with their phone screen activated while driving.
- Drivers ages 36-45 spend the most time talking on the phone while driving.
What can we do to minimize distracted driving?
- Individuals – Pledge to drive cell-free. Educate teen drivers and set a good example. Educate ourselves on options such as cell phone blocking technology offered by cell phone manufacturers and other technology providers.
- Insurance Industry – Continue to educate consumers and each other by sharing statistics and working with regulators and lawmakers on meaningful legislation to deter distracted driving deaths. Additionally, you should consider a telematics and usage-based insurance programs that provides scores intuitive of all risks.
- Auto Manufacturers – Continue to design cars with the latest safety technology and consider connected vehicle technology as a gateway to better understand drivers, their habits and how to keep them safe on the roads.