Distracted Driving Is a Worsening Problem
Driving while telephoning, texting or using other devices is a serious problem that is only getting worse. Most unsettling, distracted drivers don’t realize how bad their driving is. In a survey by Zendrive, a traffic data start-up, the company combined usage data from cellphones it monitors with self-assessments by drivers using the cellphones. Roughly one third of the worst multi-taskers considered themselves “extremely safe” drivers.
Traffic fatalities increased 15% from 2014 to 2016, and distracted driving is the main culprit. Drivers who use cell phones have 20% more claims. Distracted driving continued to worsen in all but four states last year (Pennsylvania is one of the exceptions). One in 12 drivers uses a phone at least one third of the time; at the current rate this will increase to one in five within three years.
Fully autonomous vehicles are a long way from reality. Backup drivers on test vehicles have proven to be inattentive, leading regulators to warn this will delay full autonomy.
Laws and corporate policies have been ineffective. Regulators, insurers and technology companies have turned to monitoring drivers to raise awareness. Zendrive is monitoring roughly one of every four U.S. drivers. Rival TrueMotion is tracking driver metrics for 8 of the top 20 U.S. auto insurers. Cambridge Mobile Telematics monitors distracted drivers for 35 insurers. Early results indicate drivers who monitor their behavior reduce phone use by 35-40%.
Insurers can use data they collect to give discounts to good drivers and increase rates for distracted drivers. Pricing may be the key to changing driver behavior. The change cannot come soon enough.