Travelers Institute president points to need for better education and rewards for safer driving
Motor and Fleet
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Road traffic has seen a post-pandemic increase due to the return to office life and social obligations, resulting in an increase in distracted driving, crashes and deaths. Across North America, using technology and operating a vehicle while stressed or sleep-deprived is becoming more common, contributing to less safe roads and a need for better incentives and social stigmas for safer driving.
“Post-pandemic driving habits are extremely dangerous,” said Joan Woodward, the president of the Travelers Institute and vice president of public policy at Travelers. “People navigated their vehicles as if the streets were empty during the lockdown, proving that unsafe driving habits are a difficult cycle to break.”
During the 2023 edition of RIMS in Atlanta, Woodward spoke Insurance Business about key trends in distracted driving that insurers need to be aware of, how cautious behaviors can be encouraged and the need for stronger public scrutiny and education to strengthen road safety .
Reckless driving habits are rampant
Across Canada and the United States, distraction while operating a vehicle is on the rise. According to the 2023 Travelers Risk Index, a nationwide survey conducted by The Travelers that outlines distracted driving, 30% of Canadian participants admit that they have been involved in an accident due to their own distractions, a 50% increase from 2022.
Meanwhile, 70% of American respondents believe that distracted driving is more of a problem today than in years past, a figure supported by a National Safety Council study that found deaths caused by preventable crashes. -traffic crashes in 2022 increased by 18% compared to before. pandemic level.
The use of technology is a formidable factor in diverting a driver’s attention from the road, whether it is operating a handheld device for texting, emailing, taking photos, online shopping or post updates on social media. Fumbling with a GPS or drowning in a phone call operated through a hands-free device have also proven to be important diversions with dangerous implications.
Along with technological concerns, stress and emotional stress also affect how drivers maneuver their vehicles. One in six Canadians said they often cry or experience strong emotions while driving, with people aged 18-35 21% more likely to report these feelings. Additionally, 62% of American respondents admitted to driving while drowsy or sleep deprived.
“Recent studies have shown that driving with a few hours of sleep can have the same cognitive impact as operating a car while impaired by drugs or alcohol, and that’s a disturbing revelation,” said said Woodward.
Additionally, work-related distractions have also proven detrimental for safer driving tendencies. 44% of Americans surveyed said they responded to work emergencies while on the road, while another 43% felt they should always be available to respond to professional obligations.
Meanwhile, for Canadians, only 17% of individuals report having official work policies that prohibit answering work-related calls, texts or emails while traveling.
“Employers need to have stricter protocols around these types of interruptions and clearly relay that information to managers so that workers at all levels of a company understand the importance in these safety efforts,” Woodward said.
“Just like how businesses have phishing tests to determine if an employee might pose a cyber threat to its operations, we need to make sure we test our co-workers regularly and then about impaired driving in the normal course of training programs.”
“We need to encourage safer driving in a more meaningful way”
As a public policy division of Travelers, the Travelers Institute aims to help inform public policymakers and regulators to address pressing concerns, including distracted driving.
“On a policy level, distracted driving is a bipartisan issue and should be treated as such,” Woodward said.
However, according to the survey, there is a greater demand from drivers to be rewarded for safer driving habits.
Eighty-three percent said they were interested in a financial reward while 82% were in favor of an auto insurance discount.
For Canadian and American respondents, asking a passenger that a driver not use their phone has between an 84%-90% chance of preventing a distraction.
“We need to encourage safer driving in a more meaningful way,” Woodward said. “We need to consider these numbers and find proactive solutions.”
Using technological tools that track driving patterns can provide motivation to create better habits.
“The IntelliDrive app for travelers is just one way to reward drivers who feel their attentiveness deserves recognition,” Woodward said. “If people see that they can get a better rate because of changing their habits, we can save more lives.”
That, at the end of the day, while road safety may come with financial benefits, avoiding death or critical injuries should be at the forefront of any driver’s mind.
Changing public attitudes toward distracted driving
In public discourse, reckless driving is increasingly frowned upon and there are countless campaigns to help curb unsafe behavior.
“It’s a no-brainer now that drinking or drugging and driving is shameful, and while instances like this still happen, there is more widespread condemnation of it,” Woodward said.
“However, we need to include distracted driving in that discussion. You should not be ashamed to correct a driver if they are using their phone or express concern if they are overworked and sleep deprived.”
As a result, the Travelers Institute created a Distracted Driving Initiative that provides educational resources to implement better road safety.
“We visit schools to talk to the younger generation to help them instill safer driving habits early on,” Woodward said. “We also make presentations to employers with the skills of risk managers to ensure that their employees do not take their work on the road.”
“We understand that everyone experiences different levels of distraction or stress that can affect how they operate a vehicle, and the more we raise awareness about how it affects the safety of roads and curb unsafe driving habits, the better off society is.”
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