Smartphones to blame for increase in auto crashes and pedestrian deaths; insurance costs impacted

Apr 26th, 2017 | By | Category: Transportation


Press Release

teen texting and drivingBOISE  – Distracted driving is a dangerous behavior that should be avoided, but recent studies and data point to startling increases in auto crashes as well as pedestrian deaths, which are the highest in 20 years. Insurers note that while various forms of distraction are contributing factors to these increases, smartphone use is largely to blame.
Fatal auto accidents across the nation increased by 7.2 percent in 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  The Idaho Transportation Department reports that distracted driving contributed to almost 1 of every 3 fatal or serious injury crashes from 2010 to 2014.  Also, A new observational study conducted by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission  (WTSC) reported that 71 percent of the time, when distracted driving was observed in the study, it involved the use of a mobile device (cell phone).
The increase in auto crashes is impacting insurance costs, as well. Nationally, the average expenditure for auto insurance has climbed to $926, and the Washington Insurance Commissioner’s office reported that on average, auto insurance rates among the state’s top 20 insurers increased 5.9 percent over the past year. In that state, the Legislature responded to the data and tragic stories from the families of crash victims by enacting new legislation to increase penalties for calling, texting, scrolling, viewing videos or other activities involving electronic devices while driving or briefly stopped. That bill (SB 5289) currently awaits a signature from Washington Governor Jay Inslee.
The world also has become a more dangerous place for pedestrians. A preliminary report by The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) estimates 6,000 pedestrian deaths in 2016, the highest number in more than two decades. Pedestrian fatalities have increased 11 percent since 2015, and 22 percent since 2014. GHSA is pointing at the growing use of smartphones, by both drivers and pedestrians, as the common cause of pedestrian deaths.
“The cause-and-effect impact of distracted driving – and in particular, the use of mobile devices while driving – are evident in the data,” said Kenton Brine, NW Insurance Council President. “Crashes and fatalities – even car vs. pedestrian accidents – are increasing, and with each new tragic accident come other costs – including higher insurance rates.”
Insurers say loss costs – payments made to treat injuries, repair damaged vehicles and property and defend insured drivers in legal actions – have jumped 16 percent over the past two years. While individual companies weigh rating factors differently, loss costs are typically reflected in premiums paid by consumers.
All distractions are a reason for concern, but cell phone use while driving is the riskiest distraction for drivers. According to WTSC, talking on a cell phone increases crash risk by three times. Entering text into a smartphone increases crash risk by 23 times, and drivers talking on the phone, even hands-free, can miss up to 50 percent of what is going on in their driving environment.

NW Insurance Council is a nonprofit, public-education and public policy organization funded by member insurance companies serving Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

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