While operating a vehicle, drivers are faced with many decisions. If that weren’t enough responsibility, they also must consider the decisions that other drivers are making while driving in the same vicinity.
Add the distractions of texting, on-dash screens, and passengers distracting the driver, and you literally have an accident waiting to happen. In this article, we’ll give both drivers and employers tips on how to prevent the worst from happening—and how you can lower the cost of your insurance in this area.
A 2019 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) evaluated 2017 statistics related to fatalities and distracted drivers. In 2017 alone, a total of nine percent of fatal crashes were linked to distracted drivers, totaling over 3,160 fatalities (including bicyclists and pedestrians). Because law enforcement often requires drivers and passengers to self-report an incidence of distracted driving, the NHTSA suggests that these numbers may actually be higher.
For those on the road—and even those walking or biking nearby—distracted driving has significant repercussions.
What is distracted driving?
Distracted driving is the practice of driving a motor vehicle while engaged in another activity such as talking and texting, eating and drinking, or simply playing with the stereo system in the vehicle. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes three types of driving distractions:
- Visual: A distraction that diverts the eyes from the road
- Manual: A distraction that causes the operator to take their hands off the wheel
- Cognitive: A distraction that causes the operator to take their mental focus from the road
The NHTSA has determined that texting while driving is a particularly intense type of distracted driving, since texting can affect all three types of distractions simultaneously.
Tips for Drivers: Distracted driving prevention
According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), the following tips can help prevent someone from becoming distracted while operating a vehicle:
- Keep your vehicle tidy. Store loose gear, possessions and other distractions that could roll around the vehicle in a location (such as the glove compartment) that will prevent you from reaching for them as they roll around the floor or seat.
- Make all the necessary adjustments to the vehicle before departing. This can include entering your destination into the navigation system, finding a radio station, and adjusting the mirrors.
- Finish dressing and grooming before getting on the road. This can include applying makeup, brushing your hair, and putting on a jacket.
- Snack smart. Attempt to eat meals or snacks prior to departing and not while driving.
- Technology can wait. Put aside electronic devices and other material that may easily distract you (or the driver, if you’re a passenger). For example, place all cell phones, gaming devices, magazines or other reading materials in the glove compartment or trunk. An exception to this rule is if you’re using your phone for navigation. Best practice here is to use a mount to keep your phone in place and minimize distraction as much as possible.
- Involve your passengers. If traveling with someone, allow and encourage your passenger(s) to assist you to focus on driving safely.
Tips for Employers: What you can do to lower incidences of distracted driving, and your premium cost.
All employers should implement a companywide formal distracted-driving policy (DD Policy) to discourage and eliminate distracted driving.
As an employer, you can be liable for a distracted driving accident involving an employee, even if they are off the clock. If they are driving a company vehicle, taking a work-related call, or sending a work-related text, an employer could be held responsible. This makes it crucial to institute a full-time driving policy for employees.
Elements of a company driving policy for employees might include:
- Banning texting and hand-held phone use while driving a company vehicle. These same rules should be applied to the use of a company-issued phone while driving a personal vehicle.
- Banning the use of hands-free phones.
- Requiring workers to pull over in a safe location if they must text, make a call, or look up directions.
- We highly recommend communicating this policy often, stressing:
- How distracted driving puts them at risk of a crash
- That driving requires their full attention while they are on the road
- What they need to do to comply with your company’s policies
- What action you will take if they do not follow these policies
Implementing a driving policy for employees can have significant benefits—not only for the health and welfare of your workforce, but also for the cost of your business insurance.
Lower Premiums By Controlling Your Risk
As the accident rate increases due to distracted drivers, so do the claims that insurers must pay. Insurers then transfer these costs to customers in the form of higher premiums. Auto insurance premiums have increased 16% nationwide since 2011, correlating with the increase in distracted driving accidents.
By sharing a copy of your DD Policy, insurers will view you as a better risk, and offer you a better premium as a result.
For example, we recommend and draft a tailored DD Policy for our clients on a regular basis. When it comes time for renewal, we present the client’s DD policy to insurers. We are almost always successful in obtaining better pricing. Generally, insurers will view our safety-conscious clients in the best possible light.
Need help putting together an effective DD Policy? We can help you create an employer driving policy that keeps your workforce—and your company—protected on the road.
Terry Stotka, CEO
DHW Insurance Brokers