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Distracted Driving

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving: Staying safe on the road

Just like you and us, the majority of Americans would never do anything illegal, at least not purposely, and yet every day we see people texting on their phones while in the driver’s seat. Not only is this behavior against the law in Massachusetts, Connecticut and many other states, but you are also breaking the law if you are stuck at a red light and decide to quickly check who just pinged you. How many times have you sat behind someone after the light has turned green and they’re still sending emojis, LOLs, and TTYLs to their friends. It’s annoying in addition to being illegal. But, even more, it’s seriously dangerous.

With so many New England states such as Massachusetts and Connecticut putting laws in place that prohibit texting – plus other dangerous activities such as phone calls – while driving, why is it that so few of us are following them?

Maybe it’s because the laws vary a bit from state to state, and so are a bit confusing to drivers. For example, in Massachusetts, experienced drivers are not required to use their phone hands-free, but those drivers under the age of 18 are. Whereas in Connecticut, if you are caught driving with your phone in your hand you are breaking the law, regardless of your age.

At ICNE, we strongly encourage our personal insurance clients to get familiar with cell phone laws and other distracted driving-related policies in their community, and we are more than happy to help them find this information. These laws are in place for an excellent reason – to provide a safer driving experience for you, your passengers, and everyone else on the road.

We understand if you are still doubtful about the need for regulations around cell phone usage, especially if you, or someone you love, has not been involved in a distracted driving-related accident. But just by reviewing a few of the scary statistics, you will see that distracted driving, especially due to the use of cell phones, has become an epidemic.

According to an alarming report on Distracted Driving in the United States, released by the driving analytics company Zendrive, the number of people who consistently drive while using their cell phone is much higher than you probably think. Zendrive followed three million anonymous drivers over a three-month period, and tracked 5.6 billion miles of trips. They found that 88% of drivers are using their phone in their travels an average of three to five minutes per drive! Considering that the average American drives approximately 13,500 miles per year, we can rightly assume that we are all on our phones in our cars quite often.

Still not seeing the “so what” part of these numbers? What if we told you that this level of cell phone use is one of the primary reasons that drivers like you are getting into more car crashes today than in the last ten years. In a February 2017 report released by the National Safety Council, preliminary accident data for 2016 shows that as many as 40,000 people died in car crashes last year, and the records show it quite possibly could have been the deadliest year on the roadways since 2007.

Here are a few more stats from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that show just what we’re dealing with:

  • Each day in the United States, over eight people are killed and 1,161 are injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver.
  • Nearly one in three drivers say they text and drive at least some of the time.
  • If you are driving 55 mph, the time it takes you to send the average text will take your eyes off the road long enough to cover a football field.
  • Teen drivers have the highest proportion of distracted-related fatal crashes.
  • Distracted drivers are three times more likely to be in a collision than attentive drivers.

While cell phone usage contributes to many car crashes, it’s not shouldering all the blame; there are other activities that take place while driving that are equally hazardous that you also may be overlooking on your daily drive. Ever reached behind your seat to pick up a toy your toddler just threw down? Or how about rummaging around in your bag for a piece of gum? What about dual tasking while driving to work by applying a little bit of lipstick or even reading the morning paper? These are all ways that our attention to the road can be significantly distracted and can lead to serious injury and damages.

As your insurance advisors, ICNE urges you to be smarter on the road than ever before, become more conscious of your actions when you’re behind the wheel, and diligently follow the laws. By doing this, you could very well save your own life and the lives of others around you, whether in your car, a passing car, or simply a pedestrian or biker on the street.

To facilitate your mindful driving efforts, ICNE would like to offer three idea starters:

  1. Talk to your teen driver today. If your teen is driving, we believe that regularly discussing the risks – and unlawfulness – of driving distractions, like using their cell phone, will keep these rules top-of-mind for them. It’s also important to emphasize to them that drinking and driving, whether it’s alcohol or just a Starbucks Frappuccino, can be equally as dangerous, and, in the case of underage drinking, obviously illegal. Furthermore, having friends in the car can be a distraction too. Yes, they will probably roll their eyes and say they know everything you’re telling them, but talk about it regardless. The more conversations you have with your teen, the more likely the message will hopefully sink in and the safer they will be.
  2. Be a great role model. Parents, and really all adults, should always practice what we preach. So, if you get the urge for takeout on your way home from work, pull over and call Joe’s Pizza while safely parked. It truly takes only seconds to have something go terribly wrong when you’re driving, and you’d hate for something tragic to happen because you couldn’t take the time to be safe first, and then order your favorite pie.
  3. Provide information to your employees. If you are an employer who has company cars or trucks on the road, you should speak up too. Talk to your employees about distracted driving, implement a hands-free policy of your own, and encourage your leadership team to spread the word around the company that distracted driving will not be tolerated. The U.S. Department of Transportation has a lot of useful marketing materials available for free that can help you and your employees take the pledge to be a safe driver.

The next time you are tempted to read a quick email, make a short call, or turn around to make googly eyes at your little one, please think twice. Avoiding any distraction while driving is the only way for all of us to help turn the tide of this driving epidemic.

ICNE is glad to be the local agent who provides you with useful tips that quite possibly could save your life. If you are ready for a more personal relationship with a trusted insurance advisor, then contact us today for all your home, auto, and business insurance needs or call us at 800-243-8143. We’re always striving to do more and to do it better!

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