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Distracted driving unsafe at any speed

Posted On: Apr. 3, 2017 12:00 AM CST

At any given daylight moment in America, about 660,000 drivers are using cellphones or manipulating electronic devices while driving, the U.S. Department of Transportation says.

Insurance professionals point to distracted driving as one of the key factors behind the increase in both commercial and personal auto rates. The DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a September report that the percentage of drivers text-messaging or visibly manipulating handheld devices remained constant at 2.2% in 2015, the latest year for which data is available.

And those drivers thinking that voice-to-text applications will offer them a safety advantage are mistaken, according to a Texas A&M Transportation Institute study that found driver response times were significantly delayed no matter which texting method was used. In each case, the 2013 report said, drivers took about twice as long to react to driving situations as they did when they weren’t texting.

“I would say distracted driving is certainly a problem, there are more cars on the road and car sales have been at all time high in the last few years,” said Carolyn Snow, past president of the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc. and director of risk management for Humana Inc. in Louisville, Kentucky. “So you’ve certainly got a greater exposure.” 

Ms. Snow said Humana pairs its auto exposure with its workers compensation exposure “because if you have an auto accident, there’s a good chance you’ll have a workers comp incident.”

“I think those two lines of business go together, and ideally and generally you’ll have one line that kind of balances out the other,” she said. “So maybe you had a bad auto year, your workers comp year has been better. And I think it’s really important that — whoever your insurance company is or your third-party administrator is — that they assign one overall claims manager or account manager for both auto and workers comp if you have them tied together.”