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Insurance Premiums Go Up Thanks To Smartphone Use Behind The Wheel


We have known for a long time that distracted drivers are deadly drivers.

Whether it’s drivers reaching for something in the backseat, attending to children or pets, or even just eating a hearty meal behind the wheel, any driver who isn’t focused completely on the road is putting everyone around them at risk.

And now, with smartphones in everyone’s hand, the temptation to take your eyes off the road is proving too much for many people to resist.

As a result, the Wall Street Journal reports, insurance premiums are starting to rise in reaction to the crashes caused by distracted drivers.

According to a report by NBC News:

“Since 2011, the average insurance premium has jumped 16 percent to $926. Insurance companies say the sharp spike is partly caused by more drivers distracted on their smartphones and getting into accidents.

More than 40,000 people died on the road last year — up 14 percent since 2014 — the sharpest rise in 53 years. And distraction-related deaths were up almost 9 percent in 2015, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.”

Why distracted driving is serious enough to drive up premiums

We are all probably guilty of using our phones while driving, at least once. But most of us don’t think of ourselves as distracted drivers.

When we read news stories about people who get in crashes because of their phones, most of us are quick to write those people off as dumb or reckless, or we chalk the increase in crashes up to phone-addicted teenagers.

But according to State Farm, 36% of all drivers — no matter their age — text and drive.

And yes, not everyone who texts and drives gets into a deadly accident. The odds are you won’t kill someone because you use your phone while you drive. But whether it is a deadly impact with a cyclist, or something more minor like a fender bender in traffic or hitting a parked car, being distracted means you are more likely to be involved in a crash.

And insurance ends up covering the costs for your distracted mistakes. It all adds up.

The more crashes being covered, the more premiums will go up. And distracted drivers cause more crashes.

Why distracted driving is so incredibly dangerous (even though you think you’re good at it)

When you’re the one driving distractedly, it usually doesn’t feel dangerous — which is why so many of us do it without even thinking about it.

But even when things don’t go horribly wrong, the fact is that you’re mostly just getting lucky. Study after study has shown that the human mind simply cannot multitask that effectively, and so when you don’t give your full attention to driving, your odds of being able to avoid a crash go way down.

There are three kinds of distraction:

  • Manual distraction: Anything that causes you to remove your hands from the steering wheel, like eating or picking something up.
  • Visual distraction: Anything that causes you to take your eyes off the road, such as looking at someone when talking or checking your hair in the rearview mirror.
  • Cognitive distraction: Anything that shifts your mind away from the task of driving, like arguing with a passenger or getting lost in thought.

The reason that smartphones are so especially dangerous is that they cause you to be distracted in all three ways at once.

Using your phone requires at least one hand to be on your device, causing manual distraction. You have to look at it in order to operate it, which means visual distraction. And finally, almost anything you do on your phone like texting or using an app requires your attention to shift into the phone space, causing cognitive distraction.

Being so fully distracted means you are extremely ill equipped to notice a potential hazard, and even more ill equipped to react effectively or avoid it.

You may feel like you are still paying attention to the road and just “taking a second” to reply to a text, but it’s simply not possible. When you are fully absorbed in another task (which is what we are when we are texting or using our phones — our brains can’t help it) while hurtling through space in a giant metal vehicle, even a moment of inattention can be deadly.

Every year, over 3000 people are killed in distracted-driving-related crashes.

Lawmakers working to curb distracted driving too

In California, it is now against the law to drive with your smartphone in your hand. Starting on January 1, 2017, drivers may not hold their phone for any reason, including playing a music playlist or looking up directions.

Other cities and states have been working for years to pass legislation that will keep drivers safer on the road.

These measures indicate that the data is significant enough to warrant serious attention being paid to curbing phone use while driving. Not only are insurance companies being affected by the increase in distracted drivers (and in return, so is everyone who has an auto insurance policy), but lawmakers also see the seriousness of the rise in dangerous distracted driving.

The Sacramento Bee reports:

“A California Office of Traffic Safety study this year determined that 1 out of 8 drivers on the road is paying as much attention to his or her smartphone as to the road. State road safety officials estimate that some form of distracted driving is a factor in 80 percent of crashes.”

Distracted driving is serious and it affects all of us. If you have been hit on your bike by a distracted driver and need help with your case, please contact Bay Area Bicycle Law today for a free consultation. You’ll speak with an experienced attorney who can help you understand your options and how to pursue a successful case. Call us today at 415-466-8717.