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How to prevent distracted driving with technology

April 7, 2023

It’s a sobering fact: Nine people die every day in the United States because of distracted drivers.1 The good news is that distracted driving is often an entirely preventable risk. Through client education and by promoting the use of emerging technologies, insurance agents can help their personal and commercial lines clients avoid the tragic impact that distracted driving has on daily life.

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.

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 were distracted by their phones up to nine times during a typical 20-mile commute. Further, two-thirds of drivers say holding a cell phone to talk, text or use an app while driving is dangerous, yet 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 for six seconds at a time, driving at 45 miles per hour, traveling the distance of a football field. And the average time spent tapping screens is six seconds.3

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.

Car safety features technology

Automakers and technology companies are developing standard car safety features to reduce injuries and deaths related to distracted driving. Anti-distraction features vary but can include the following:

  • Lane departure warningsProvide a visual or audio alert if a vehicle is straying across lane lines when a turn signal isn’t on
  • Lane-keeping assistRecenters a vehicle in a lane by automatically applying light steering correction
  • Lockout controlsPartially block on-screen control of keyboard monitors in a vehicles dashboard display while a car is in motion

Whether or not insureds have anti-distraction safety features in their vehicles, agents should educate customers on the best approach to staying safe on the road. Distractions can cause even the most experienced drivers to make dangerous mistakes, so it’s crucial to stress the importance of removing distractions, observing speed limits, driving unimpaired, and avoiding disabling or overriding car safety technology features in newer vehicles.

Telematics technology

Rising auto insurance premiums place agents in an ideal position to help personal and commercial lines clients save money through telematics. Available through plugged-in vehicle devices, mobile applications or internet-connected cars, telematics technology collects vehicle data (e.g., location and mileage) and information on driving behavior (e.g., speed, acceleration, idle time and hard braking). Telematics technology has come a long way in recent years. It allows agents to improve the customer experience by allowing clients to control their auto premiums based on safe driving behaviors.

Implementing telematics for personal lines clients

Telematics can benefit every personal lines prospect or client and should be added to quotes and renewals during the sales process. By developing a talk track or sales script that emphasizes the benefits and addresses data-sharing concerns, agency staff can give the client control to choose an option that may reduce their premiums, a high priority for many consumers today.

Implementing telematics for enterprises

Businesses that manage a fleet of vehicles can benefit from using telematics to manage distracted driving risks and control loss. Strong driver safety programs start with policies and processes, but technology like Nationwide’s Vantage 360 Fleet® helps businesses manage fleet vehicles and monitor drivers’ routes and driving activity. By tracking information related to a vehicle’s location, driver behavior, vehicle diagnostics and other operating metrics, businesses use data to identify risks and reward driver safety.

Protecting insureds through education and technology

Heightened awareness about the dangers of distracted driving and the adoption of vehicle safety technologies can significantly reduce costly and deadly crashes caused by distracted driving. Educating insureds about the dangers of distracted driving and offering technology solutions that save both lives and money, puts you in the driver’s seat as a trusted advisor. To learn more about using Nationwide’s driver safety technology solutions for your book of business, click here.