Every year, it seems like distracted driving is becoming a more common issue. In 2020, the most recent year for which data are available, 3,142 people were killed by distracted driving, and hundreds of thousands of others were injured. And it’s not just the people behind the wheel at danger; it’s also passengers (including pets), other drivers, and pedestrians who are all vulnerable to the dangers of distracted driving.
At just 55 miles per hour, something as simple as reading a quick text can take your eyes off the road long enough to travel the length of a football field; think about all the danger you’re putting yourself and others in such a short amount of time! Knowing that it can take just a few small changes in behavior to make the roads safer for everyone on them, we have pulled some things to keep in mind to become a safer driver.
What is distracted driving
Distracted driving is any action by a driver that takes their attention away from the road and points it towards something else in or outside of the vehicle. Distracted driving can be categorized into three different buckets: taking your eyes off the road (looking at directions; reading a text message), taking your hands off the wheel (eating food; changing the radio station), and taking your mind off of driving (paying attention to an upset child; becoming drowsy behind the wheel). While many people might closely associate distracted driving with phone usage, there are clearly many different actions that should be associated with dangerous behavior behind the wheel.
That’s why states across the country have enacted laws and continue to implement campaigns to combat the dangers of distracted driving. The attention paid to this issue on a national level speaks to the prevalence of distracted driving and the importance of reminding drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road when driving.
The consequences of distracted driving
With technological advancements, people are more connected than ever, leading them to use their phones and other mobile devices even while driving. With remote work on the rise, now people even take work calls, send emails, text coworkers while on the road. In fact, 79% of drivers make or take calls while driving. A quick text message or phone call while driving may not seem like a big deal, but if you are caught, it could have big consequences.
New York became the first state to ban hand-held phone conversations by all drivers in 2001, with 24 states plus Washington, D.C. now having similar laws. 36 states plus Washington, D.C. have phone use bans specifically targeted at young and novice drivers, while texting is completely banned for all drivers in 48 states and Washington, D.C.
For most states, getting caught breaking any distracted driving laws means paying a fine, while in others, it can go as far as including jail time. Beyond that, a number of states will dole out demerit points each time a driver is pulled over for distracted driving, with enough points leading to license suspension or revocation.
The impact on your car insurance
Beyond legal trouble, distracted driving can also have a financial impact on you when it comes to your car insurance.
If your distracted driving causes an accident, it is pretty certain that your insurance premium will go up. Distracted driving shows that you are an unsafe driver, meaning you are a greater risk to insure. Thus, your insurance company will want you to pay more because it’s more likely you’ll get in an accident and need to file a claim.
More generally, as the number of distracted driving incidents increases, the riskier the roads become, and the more insurance companies are paying out in claims. Insurance companies typically transfer any increase in costs they experience onto their customers by increasing premiums. So regardless if you’re participating in behaviors that lead to distracted driving, it’s likely you’re also experiencing the consequences of this widespread phenomenon, proving the importance of promoting safer driving to those around you.
Removing distractions from your driving
There are a few steps you can take to become the best driver you can be by removing distractions while you drive.
Before hitting the road, you can set your phone to “do not disturb” mode so you don’t receive any notifications that can distract you from the road. Utilizing bluetooth in your car enables you to use your voice, not your eyes and hands, to interact with your phone when necessary. Making sure any passengers in your vehicle, including pets, are calm and won’t interfere with your driving will also ensure a safer driving environment. Other things to avoid while driving are: eating, sifting through music options, putting on makeup, glancing at things alongside the road, and having loud music which can prevent you from hearing sirens or other important noises around you too.
Some insurance companies also offer telematics programs, which use technology such as mobile apps, plugins, and other physical beacons to collect data about how, where, and when you drive. Such programs help drivers see where and how they display risky driving behaviors, and do work to improve their driving. In return, insurance companies typically offer incentives, rewards, or even discounts to safe drivers who participate in such programs. By sharing your data with your insurance company over a few months (most programs last for a 90-day period), it’s possible to save up to 40% for being a safe driver, while also making the roads safer; it’s a win-win!
Don’t drive distracted
The best way to curb distracted driving is to make it a priority to always focus on the road. It is necessary to understand that whatever distractions are around you – whether it be a work email or a french fry you’ve dropped on the floor – can wait. Nothing is more important than your safety and the safety of those around you, so always keep your eyes on the road and don’t drive distracted.
Has your car insurance rate been impacted lately? Are you curious about enrolling in a telematics program? Our knowledgeable agents can help you find the right insurance coverage for your needs at the right price! Reach out to us today.