According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2015 alone, 3,477 people were killed and 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. During daylight hours, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones while driving. That creates enormous potential for deaths and injuries on U.S. roads. Teens were the largest age group reported as distracted at the time of fatal crashes.
Some of these incidences are the result of a perfect storm. The rate of teen crashes rises during these “100 Deadliest Days” — the hot summer months — because teenagers are now out of school for the summer and thus, on the road more frequently. Families buoyed by the recent, well-timed drop in gas prices — falling 2.6 cents per gallon in the last week to $2.25 per gallon, according to gasoline price website GasBuddy.com — will soon be in the car more, likely kicking off road trips to commence with the July 4th holiday. Coupled with any kind of driver inexperience or distraction creates for a risky, often deadly combination.
While foldable maps don’t present the driving distraction they did decades ago, there are now many more distractions that present while driving, including cell phone use, which is at the top of the list. Almost everyone has seen a driver distracted by a cell phone, but when you are the one distracted, you often don't realize that driver is you.
Technology: The good and bad
New technology in vehicles is causing us to become more distracted behind the wheel than ever before. According to NHTSA, 53% of drivers assume that if manufacturers put "infotainment" dashboards and hands-free technology in vehicles, they must be safe. And, with some state laws focusing on handheld bans, many drivers honestly believe they are making the safe choice by using a hands-free device. But in fact, these technologies distract our brains regardless.
But technology can help — specifically telematics, which can help monitor and change distracted driving habits, along with tips to avoid engaging in distracted driving, for both teens and adults alike. At Octo, we offer a distracted driving feature to all of our customers that monitors how the phone is being used during a trip, detects and analyzes several risky behaviors with different severity levels, and communicates the final details and score to the Insurance partner and their policyholder.
Unlike other penalty-focused distracted driving apps that may shut off a smartphone altogether, Octo delivers an education-based approach, monitoring and communicating feedback to drivers so they better understand the risks, and working with insurance customers to incentivize drivers to stay off their phones while driving.
With telematics providing feedback to drivers on their overall driving habits, they learn to practice safer driving — less hard braking, less tailgating, etc. — and telematics can also help with safer routes and even to maintain safer vehicles.
Other ways to ensure your and your teens’ safety:
- Do not read, write or respond to emails or texts while driving.
- Do not accept multiple calls while driving.
- Type your GPS location in before starting your trip.
- Find a telematics solution or app that monitors distracted driving and provides ongoing feedback and analysis of driving habits, allowing you to see when and how you get distracted.
- Once equipped with knowledge of your driving pattern from the app, use the data the app provides you to take steps to help protect yourself by becoming less distracted.
Overall, distracted driving is a growing epidemic in the U.S., as the advent of smart phones and connected car features continue to take drivers’ attention off the road. You can help cut down “distraction-affected” crashes and injuries by taking proactive steps to avoid distractions, and using technology to help you identify the risks and behaviors that lead to distractions in the first place.
Nino Tarantino is the North American CEO of Octo Telematics, which provides advanced telematics systems and services to the automotive and insurance industries. Connect with him on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter @ninotarantino.