Despite the known risks, distracted driving is not going away

In 2016, traffic accidents involving a distracted driver resulted in the deaths of 3,450 people, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.  That number represents 9 percent of all 37,41 traffic fatalities that year.

Even though thousands of people are dying each year due to distracted driving, nearly 80 percent of drivers admit to talking on their phones while driving. Over 30 percent of drivers admit to having had a near-miss accident while distracted. And 19 percent said they would continue to drive distracted even if it were illegal — which it is.

This information comes from a recent survey of over 2,000 consumers and executives for the 2019 Travelers Risk Index by Travelers Companies. The survey examined the frequency of distracted driving behaviors and attitudes toward reducing them.

The survey interviewed executives because they often put pressure on workers to be available even when they are not in the office, which can lead to distracted driving. Unfortunately, it appears that many workplaces do not consider distracted driving when making policies about employee availability.

The distractions keep coming — and getting worse

The Travelers Risk Index found that the surveyed drivers engaged in some behind-the-wheel activities that seem incredibly distracting:

  • 44 percent of drivers admitted to typing texts or emails;
  • 23 percent admitted to using social media;
  • 22 percent admitted to taking photos or recording videos;
  • 15 percent admitted to shopping online.

Just when we think we have seen it all, drivers continue to engage in more potentially life-threatening behavior. Moreover, many of those surveyed said it would be difficult or very difficult to stop their behaviors. In fact, 5 percent of survey respondents said it would be very difficult to stop shopping online while they were driving.

As mentioned, pressure from the boss to be available at all times has ramped up the pressure to engage in distracting behaviors. Of the executives surveyed, 87 percent said they expected their employees to be sometimes or frequently available when they are not in the office.

At least 20 percent of the consumers interviewed admitted that pressure from employers to be available led them to drive distracted. Almost half said that they either always need to be available or that they did not want to miss a work emergency. Another 17 percent admitted that driving is when they get a lot of work done.

Travelers found that about 75 percent of workplaces have distracted driving policies. Of those, however, only 18 percent actually advise employees to set their phones to “do not disturb” while they are driving.

What can we do to reduce distracted driving?

According to the Travelers survey, speaking up could make a big difference. Of the consumers surveyed, 16 percent said they rarely or never say something when riding in a car with a distracted driver. However, 54 percent said they would probably stop driving distracted if a passenger asked them to do so.

Other research has found that parents can be effective at reducing distracted driving among their teens by having discussions and setting clear expectations. About two-thirds of parents say they have had such a conversation with their kids.

Finally, we can hold bad drivers financially responsible for the harm they cause through personal injury lawsuits. If you or a loved one has been injured by a distracted driver, meet with an experienced attorney for an evaluation of your situation and advice about what to do next.

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