Despite decreased traffic, the National Safety Council found that 2020 motor vehicle deaths were up 8% from 2019 — the highest percentage increase in 13 years. Cell phones have long been the cause of deadly driving accidents, but new evidence suggests that the distracted driving epidemic has only gotten worse during the pandemic.
In an analysis of 185-billion miles of data, the Zendrive Collision Report found that the record-setting collision rate of 2020 can be largely attributed to dangerous distracted driving behaviors, like phone use. Their findings revealed that 57% of all collisions involve phone use before impact. Nearly 17% of all crashes involve phone use five seconds prior to impact, which means that nearly one in every five crashes can be directly attributed to the phone-related distraction. Researchers also note an increase in other bad driving behaviors, like speeding and hard braking.
Reasons for the Increase in Distracted Driving
Distracted driving has always been a problem, so why has the pandemic caused it to intensify? A Travelers survey of over 1,000 consumers and business managers reveals that the pandemic has lulled people into a false sense of road security. One in four drivers think that roads are safer today than they were before a pandemic, and a growing number of respondents reported using their phones in unsafe ways while driving. 26% of respondents reported texting and driving, up from 19% pre-pandemic; 20%, checking social media, up from 13% pre-pandemic; 19%, taking videos or photos, up from 10% pre-pandemic; and 17%, shopping online, up from 8% pre-pandemic.
Additional findings add color to this data, suggesting that many feel an increased pressure to always be “on” and available for their jobs. 48% of business managers surveyed said they expect employees to respond promptly to work-related calls, texts, and emails, compared to 43% pre-pandemic. One in four respondents said they answer work-related calls and texts while behind the wheel because they think it might be an emergency, worry their supervisor would be upset if they don’t answer, or are unable to mentally shut off from work.
Bad News for Insurers and Insureds
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ Center for Insurance Policy and Research writes, “nationally, auto insurance premiums have increased 16% since 2011, correlating with the increase in distracted driving accidents.” The higher the accident rate, the more money insurers lose to paying out claims. For insureds, this means higher premiums. For companies whose employees drive as a part of their regular duties, distracted driving is an extra liability to consider. Be attentive while driving and adopt a policy that ensures your employees will do the same.