The Killer You Never Saw Coming

Distracted driving is killing us, and insurance companies are getting together to find solutions.

November 26, 2018

Whether driving for work or just tending to day-to-day activities, like commuting to the office or driving to the grocery store, we all are susceptible to being distracted. Many of us are inclined to believe a distracted-driving crash “will never happen to me,” and too many of us believe we can multitask.

While driving, have you ever:

  • Checked social media while stopped at a red light?
  • Sent a quick text?
  • Taken a few minutes to call a co-worker?
  • Eaten a sandwich or had a cup of coffee?

No problem, right?

Wrong. Research from the University of Utah found that multitasking while driving is dangerous, and those most confident in their ability to multitask were indeed the least likely to do so successfully. Professor David Sanbonmatsu, a senior author of the study, stated:

“What is alarming is that people who talk on cell phones while driving tend to be the people least able to multitask well. Our data suggest the people talking on cell phones while driving are people who probably shouldn’t.”

Sounds like the “it will never happen to me” crowd may be the most susceptible to a distracted driving collision.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving caused 3,450 fatalities in 2016, and about 391,000 distracted-driving injuries were recorded in 2015. About 481,000 drivers are using their cell phones during daylight hours.

With almost 400,000 injuries and fatalities and up to a half-million people operating motor vehicles while using a cell phone on a daily basis, it appears the “it will never happen to me” crowd is learning the hard way quite often.

A majority of us are exposed to driving dangers not only from a personal perspective (commuting, shopping, leisure, etc.) but also on the job – and it’s not just the 3.5 million truck drivers on the road. While most drivers may not consider driving a primary job function, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 30% of civilian jobs require some driving.

It is no wonder motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of work-related fatalities, accounting for 25,000 deaths from 2003-2016 and total costs of about $25 billion, according to the CDC and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Workplace crashes not only have an effect on work life but on home life, as well.

Drivers, employers and safety professionals all have a role to play in minimizing the damage. The Road to Zero Coalition launched in 2016 as a partnership between the U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Safety Council. More than 850 members of the Coalition have come together around the goal of ending fatalities on our nation’s roads by 2050. Distracted driving is just one of the issues the Coalition seeks to address through promoting proven life-saving strategies, policy changes, design, technology and education.

On Dec. 4, a panel discussion on distracted driving challenges, methods and tools to document behavior changes will follow the Road to Zero Coalition meeting in Washington D.C. Insurance companies, including AON, Liberty Mutual, Zurich, USAA and Nationwide, along with the Property and Casualty Insurers Association and the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety, will come together to seek new solutions to the problem of distracted driving. Please consider joining us. And, if you haven’t already, join the Road to Zero Coalition to be part of the change you want to see.

Bill Warnick

Bill Warnick CSP is senior risk engineer at Zurich North America and a member of the Road to Zero Coalition.

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