Let’s start with the better news: the U.S. highway death toll dropped by about 2% to 38,800 in 2019. That’s a still unacceptable figure but a welcome reversal after years of surging roadway fatalities as the U.S. economy recovered from the Great Recession.
The far-less-good news: distracted driving has persisted in contributing to about 10% of all highway fatalities, a figure no one expects to drop any time soon now that COVID-19 lockdowns are easing and people are returning to the roads.
Whether someone you love has been known to text and drive, or you have found yourself distracted behind the wheel, we’ve come up with a few tips to help you and yours break the habit.
1. Stow your phone. Turning off the phone and putting it in “do not disturb” mode can help remove the temptation to browse online at a red light or respond right away to a text message.
2. Don’t be a distraction. Avoid calling or texting family members and friends when you know they are driving to avoid distracting them.
3. Talk to your employer. Responding to texts or taking calls for work while driving can be dangerous. Encourage your employer to have a distracted driving policy that includes waiting to talk with employees until they are safely parked.
4. Set a good example. Parents can model good behavior for their children by demonstrating attentive driving. Avoid texting, eating, grooming or calling someone while behind the wheel.
5. Plan your route before you go. Programming your navigation system while you drive can take your eyes off the road. It’s better to ask a passenger to do it or to enter your destination before you leave home.
6. Speak up. If you see someone texting or otherwise driving while distracted, say something and let them know that you are not comfortable with that behavior. Encourage your children to do the same when they are passengers in a friend’s car. It could save a life.
7. Avoiding reaching. Resist the urge to reach for items if they fall while driving. Taking your eyes off the road to search for an item can make you more likely to have an accident.
Just why fatalities decreased last year isn’t clear, although experts point to efforts to redesign high-crash areas to reduce crash risk. Other proven measures include lowering the legal alcohol concentration limit. For example, Utah’s implementation of a .05 legal limit has prompted other states to consider similar laws.
Under Colorado law, it’s illegal to text and drive. However, Colorado has no law requiring hands-free devices. A bill introduced at the Capitol this year would have done just that, but it fell victim to a session shortened by the pandemic. More than 20 other states require drivers to use a hands-free accessory to either make a call or text someone, so it’s likely Colorado lawmakers will try again.
Matt Genova is the president of CCIG’s Personal Lines department. Reach him at Matt.Genova@thinkccig.com or 720-330-7936.
CCIG is a Denver-area insurance, employee benefits and surety brokerage with clients nationwide. We do more than make sure you have the right policy. We help you manage your long-term cost of insurance with our risk and claims management expertise and a commitment to service excellence.
Also read: Telematics: The Road to Lower Auto Premiums