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Even as automobiles are bundled with increasingly sophisticated safety features, roadside fatalities are rising. These findings begin to explain the confounding rise in roadside fatalities, despite additional safety features:

  • 47% of motorists reported they are comfortable texting while driving, no matter how many well-intentioned information campaigns are launched.
  • Insurers report the use of smartphones by motorists to talk, text and access the internet as a new and significant factor causing the wrecks.
  • 10% of drivers reported driving while drunk.
  • 16% of motorists reported not wearing seatbelts on every trip.
  • 25% of motorists reported feeling comfortable speeding on residential streets.

Distracted driving from the use of handheld devices – usually cell phone – is dropping, mostly attributed to certain legislation, but there are still enough of us talking/texting, eating, putting on makeup, etc. to be dangerous. And research shows that self-reporting is lower than actual occurence. Here are some important statistics to consider. Please DRIVE SAFELY. It can wait.

% of All Distracted Drivers

15-19 … 9%
20-29 … 27%
30-39 … 19%
40-49 … 14%
50-59 … 12%
60-69 … 7%
70+ … 10%

Source for all data: “Distracted Driving in Fatal Crashes 2017,” National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Center for Statistics and Analysis, April 2019.

Analysts working for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration joined in this reckoning by reporting increased roadside fatalities can be partially attributed to the fact more people are driving more miles due to job growth, the result of an improved economy. These analysts went onto cite three main causes of traffic fatalities:

  • Almost 50% of traffic fatalities occurred when passengers were not wearing seat belts.
  • Approximately 30% of traffic fatalities involved a drunken driver or speeding, although driving while under the influence is illegal in all 50 states.
  • Approximately 10% of automobile deaths could be attributed to distracted driving.

The National Safety Council estimated automobile crashes cost about $432.5 billion in 2016, including those stemming from motor vehicle deaths, injuries and property damage. This astonishing amount equals nearly one-half of 2016 U.S. social security benefit payments.

The rising number and cost of vehicular accidents are exerting a significant effect on automobile liability insurance costs:

  • Business automobile liability insurance rates are rising faster than they have in more than a decade.
  • Even as automobile liability insurance rates rise, costs associated with crashes are outpacing premium increases for some insurance companies.

In addition to an increase in the number of roadside wrecks, the rising size of business automobile liability insurance claims is affecting several auto insurance companies’ bottom lines.

  • Increasing claims severity can be attributed to growing costs for medical care and auto repair.
  • The rising price of auto parts is also a contributing factor to increased automobile liability claims.

When considering why roadside fatalities are increasing despite improved automobile safety, remember that human behavior is unpredictable. Although the benefits of exercise are well known, many will walk past the gym on the way to purchase a hamburger and fries. Which one of us hasn’t chosen to forego an annual flu shot, while fully acknowledging the misery of a week spent in bed?

We who work in the claims community have an obligation to both our insureds and our employers to educate noncompliant motorists. Out-of-the-box thinking is needed to combat this out-of-the-park problem.