The National Safety Council (NSC) released a report in 2014 indicating that cell phone use was estimated to be involved in 26 percent of all motor vehicle crashes, which was an increase from the previous year. They added that 21 percent of crashes involved drivers talking on handheld or hands-free cell phones.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that every day, about nine people are killed and more than 1,000 injured in crashes that involve a distracted driver. According to a recent report in Money magazine, insurance companies are starting to take the issue seriously.
Several companies are now implementing technology that helps track in-car phone use. They are also responding to tickets involving texting and driving with higher rates, and in some cases, raising rates across the board in response to an increase in distracted driving accidents.
Insurance Companies Tracking Cell Phone Use
Money reports that Arity, a unit of Allstate insurance, is already tracking in-car smartphone use “so that insurance companies can either punish or reward drivers, depending on how they use their phone while driving.” Their application can determine if a phone is lying flat and motionless, or if it’s being moved and used.
Arity has already analyzed data from hundreds of thousands of Allstate drivers. An analysis of the data showed that drivers on their phones are more dangerous drivers, in general. They then reported that distracted drivers cost insurance companies 160 percent more than the least distracted drivers.
Arity CEO, Gary Hallgren, told CNN Tech that he expects insurance companies to use smartphone data more often in the future to not only potentially punish distracted drivers, but reward safer ones.
Everyone Pays for Distracted Driving
Though insurance companies may need to seek regulatory approval before they can use cell phone data to increase rates, they can already respond to any traffic violation that involves texting while driving. In states like Vermont, where texting while driving is illegal, insurance companies have a clear baseline they can use to justify raising rates. (Texting while driving is banned in 47 states and the District of Columbia.)
In states where it’s still legal, insurance companies have to look at other factors involved that may be related to texting, including speeding and other moving violations. Currently, there are many states that don’t require officers to ask about cell phone use related to an accident, but that’s gradually changing as the danger rises.
NBC News reports that insurance rates are already rising in response to distracted driving. Since 2011, the average premium has increased by 16 percent partly because more drivers are using their smartphones behind the wheel and getting into more accidents.
“Everyone is going to pay more because of the distracted driving epidemic,” Robert Hartwig, co-director of the Center for Risk and Uncertainty Management at the University of South Carolina, told NBC. “That’s because no fault can be attributed in an accident and also because many people who are distracted driving certainly aren’t going to admit it.” As a result, costs are going up across the board. “Everyone is a victim of distracted driving,” Hartwig said.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found through their studies that taking your eyes off the road for more than two seconds doubles the risk of a crash. They also found that while 83 percent of drivers thought texting while driving was dangerous, many admitted to doing it within the past month.