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The Importance of Distracted Driving Awareness Month

April 19, 2024

Distracted Driving Awareness Month

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. The purpose of this event is to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving and encourage motorists to reduce avoidable distractions behind the wheel. This article highlights the dangers of distracted driving and ways to help your customers stay safe on the road.

What is distracted driving?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines distracted driving as when a driver isn’t giving their full attention to the road, the vehicles around them and the speed limit. The loss of mental focus behind the wheel from multitasking, speeding and driving drowsy can all lead to loss of life. in 2020, over 3,100 people were killed and about 324,000 were injured in crashes involving distracted drivers across the nation. Of those who died, 587 were not in vehicles―they were walking, riding their bikes or otherwise outside a vehicle.2

Aligned with a shared mission to protect people, helping drivers keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel through technology that supports safe driving behavior couldn’t be a more important task for insurance agents and carriers today.

Distracted driving behaviors

Distracted driving is caused by a number of behaviors, chief among them being cellphone use while driving. This tends to fall under each category of distractions, as device use requires:

  1. Significant attention to operate (e.g., dialing a phone number or responding to a text message) (visual and cognitive distractions)
  2. The use of a hand to operate (physical distractions)
  3. Users to talk and listen (auditory distractions)

Unlike other distractions (e.g., eating) that might be brief, cellphone use can be sustained over longer periods, increasing the risk of an incident. Further, the habitual nature of checking messages, social media or emails can lead to automatic behaviors that are hard to suppress, even when driving. In fact, the NHTSA reports that the use of cellphone is a significant factor in accidents and was involved in 12% of all car accidents on U.S. roadways.1 Because of these factors, cellphones are often a focus of campaigns to reduce distracted driving and enhance road safety.

Using emerging technologies to prevent distracted driving

While most drivers agree that distracted driving is dangerous, that belief isn’t reflected in their behavior. According to a recent Nationwide survey, drivers and are looking at their phones more often (92%) compared to 12 months ago. Further, two-thirds of drivers say holding a cell phone to talk, text or use an app while driving is dangerous, yet almost half admitted to doing this in the past six months.

These findings highlight a dangerous habit of drivers essentially driving blind. This emphasizes the need for agents to promote the adoption of tools that help curb driver distractions behind the wheel.

Mobile solutions

Whether it’s talking on a phone, glancing at a text message or navigating a map, most drivers are driving while distracted, based on data collected through Nationwide’s SmartRide mobile app. In fact, drivers are taking their eyes off the road an average of 13 times a day, traveling the distance of about three football fields every time they are distracted by their phones.

Fortunately, there is a free and easy-to-implement solution in the form of built-in driving modes on cell phones. Typically enabled via a phone’s settings, driving modes essentially put a user’s phone on “do not disturb,” silencing incoming phone calls, texts and notifications. Not only is this method of reducing driving distractions simple to use, but it’s also free.

Beyond using built-in driving modes on cell phones, Nationwide’s SmartRide mobile app, which rewards safe driving behavior with a discount of up to 40% on auto insurance, also has a feature that focuses on phone distractions to help drivers become more aware of their behavior and provides tips to avoid distractions.

Dangers of distracted driving

Nationwide’s 2024 Driving Behaviors survey revealed that an overwhelming majority of respondents agree that driving has become more dangerous. Survey respondents report that other drivers are being more aggressive (90%) and reckless (86%) and are looking at their phones more often (92%) compared to 12 months ago. Additionally, many agree:

  • They often see drivers with road rage (70%)
  • Other drivers often irritate them (67%)
  • Driving is stressful for them (37%)

These behaviors contribute to distracted driving, and it only takes one distraction to cause an accident. This is particularly concerning considering that 8% of all fatal crashes and 14% of injury crashes in 2021 were attributed to distracted driving.2 In fact, more than 3,000 Americans are killed in accidents involving distracted drivers each year—equating to approximately nine deaths per day.1

Distracted driving laws and governmental practices

In an effort to combat distracted driving, some states ban hand-held device use and texting while driving. While the specifics of these laws may vary, handheld bans typically permit the use of phones and other devices in a “hands-free” manner (e.g., using voice commands). Still, an increasing number of states have expanded on handheld bans, preventing drivers from accessing, viewing or reading non-navigation-related materials on their devices. Some states have banned drivers from typing or sending text messages while driving altogether.3 This legislation is important for keeping drivers safe on the road, but it’s not a cure-all. Preventing distracted driving requires continued education.

Help clients prevent distracted driving with these safety tips

Even the most experienced drivers can become distracted on the road. As such, it’s important for drivers to identify and respond to potentially harmful driving behaviors. The following are some strategies for drivers to consider:

  • Learn about distracted driving and its associated risks.
  • Never text or use a cellphone while driving.
  • Avoid eating, reaching for items and performing other potentially distracting activities when on the road.
  • Leverage cellphone applications that recognize when driving and automatically send a preset safety message when a text is received.

Drivers who glance away from the road for any reason, even for a second, risk their safety and that of others.

Nationwide Solutions

Overall, it’s evident that distracted driving is a significant concern for all motorists, threatening the safety of the roadways and creating challenges across the auto insurance industry. Distracted Driving Month is a great reminder of how crucial it is for motorists to take this risk seriously and do what they can to reduce potential distractions behind the wheel.

Nationwide also offers telematics solutions that can help motorists become more aware of their driving behaviors behind the wheel and promote safe driving practices. SmartRide® is a mobile application that tracks drivers’ habits on the road and offers safe driving discounts on auto insurance and personalized experiences that help them drive safely.

Additionally, insurance agents can help promote distracted driving prevention by spreading the word on social media, sharing resources in client email communications, presenting to teen motorists at local schools, and actively supporting related legislation in their respective states. Nationwide’s distracted driving website has additional information and resources to help you share this important information with your customers.

Check out additional risk prevention resources

The insights provided in this article underscore the importance of combating distracted driving. Given the rise in mobile device usage and other distractions, it’s more important than ever for drivers to adopt safe driving practices and for communities to support initiatives aimed at reducing distractions. Insurance agents—along with organizations like Nationwide—play a pivotal role in these efforts by offering resources, technology solutions like SmartRide® and educational campaigns to promote awareness and change behavior.

By working together, drivers and insurance agents can make a difference in reducing distracted driving incidents. For more information on distracted driving, check out our other personal lines resources here.