View Source: Marc Gordan and Tim Grant 

Distracted driving is a nationwide epidemic that not only threatens the driver but everyone else on the road. Roughly nine people are killed and more than 1,000 injured every day in the U.S. due to distracted driving accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Beyond the human tragedies, it is driving up insurance rates as carriers struggle to manage the growing risks.

While technology is largely responsible for the recent increase in distracted driving cases as people talk, text and even live stream on their smartphones, technology also offers a potential solution to reign them in. The challenge is that a driver may not show signs of distracted driving until the worst happens. The insurance industry needs new tools to help continuously search for those signs that show a driver’s vulnerabilities and risks. Using a combination of data intelligence, telematics and vehicle history data can help both carriers and customer curb distracted driving by presenting a clearer view of potentially risky driving behavior.

But technology alone is not a panacea.  For carriers to correctly underwrite and help their customers avoid risk, they must know — and communicate — the facts. Education, outreach, and a deeper understanding of generational differences can help carriers make the roads even safer. The following are five key ways carriers can combine technology with information to reduce distracted driving incidents.

No. 5: Raise awareness.

The key to changing driving behavior is in making drivers understand the urgency of addressing distracted driving because too few understand the extent of the epidemic. Staggering statistics can open eyes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 25% of all crashes involve some form of driver distraction, which claimed the lives of 3,166 people in 2017 alone.

It’s even more troubling that our youth are the predominant victims of distracted driving. The AAA found that new teen drivers are three times as likely as adults to be involved in a deadly crash, with distraction responsible for six out of 10 teen crashes.

Distracted driving awareness campaigns — rich with statistics, advice, incentives, apps, social media conversation starters, and other insights — can help carriers can shift customers’ attitudes perceptions toward better driving habits. Carriers can also take advantage of the increased visibility and informational resources available during Distracted Driving Awareness Month each April — and effort spearheaded by National Safety Council to recognize the dangers of and eliminate preventable deaths from distracted driving.

No. 4: Show the tangible benefits of safer driving.

Appealing to one’s self-interest is a highly persuasive communication technique. The key for carriers is in talking to their customers about how avoiding distracted driving behaviors can not only keep them safe by avoiding accidents, but it can benefit them economically through discounts and other incentives.

There are other benefits to safer driving that carriers can convey to customers as well, including better gas or EV mileage, reduced risk of getting a driving violation, longer tire life, and less wear and tear on the vehicle, to name a few.

No. 3: Address generational differences.

From the college freshman with a new car to the grandmother who likes to call her kids at any time, distracted driving crosses all generations. The distracting factors and frequency, however, can vary between age groups.

An analysis of LexisNexis internal telematics data from 4,500 drivers found that the more a consumer displays distracted driving behaviors, the worse his/her overall driving score. The research revealed that younger the driver is, the more they tend to be distracted by their phone, with drivers ages 16-25 spending the most time with their phone screen activated while driving.

Millennials are also one of the largest offenders of distracted drivers, with 88% of millennials engaging in at least one risky behavior each time that they’re behind the wheel. Millennials also had the most speeding violations as well as the second-highest rate of increase for moving violations related to distracted driving over the past five years. As millennials have surpassed baby boomers as the nation’s largest living generation, carriers need to keep this tendency in mind as they evaluate their book of business and institute predictive modeling for future risk.

Generation X is driving slower and outperforming all other generations for a relative increase in the number of distracted driving violations.  But from a risk perspective, Gen Xers aren’t perfect either. A recent study by Volvo Car U.S. and the Harris Poll discovered that even though distracted driving spans across generations, 73% of Gen Xers said they are most likely to engage in unsafe driving techniques.

While most distracted driving attention focuses on younger generations, Baby Boomers present significant risk as well. A LexisNexis analysis of Motor Vehicle Records found that Baby Boomers have seen an increase in distracted driving moving violations in three of the last four years studied. A Pew Research driving test study found that Boomers performed worse overall, possibly due to them taking more time to read, write, or a possible inability to manage technological multitasking.

No. 2: Promote Usage-Based Insurance (UBI) programs.

UBI telematics can play a critical role in making sure technology and risky driving behavior don’t collide. A LexisNexis study of youthful drivers in the U.K. found that UBI or telematics insurance has helped cut car casualty rates amongst 17-19-year-olds by over a third (35.3%) since 2011, over a period when total car casualties fell by just 16.1%. High insurance premiums lead to estimates that four in five young drivers have a UBI policy today.

The improving behavior of young drivers is also in direct relation to the exponential 400% growth in telematics policies since 2011, with 975,000 live UK policies in 2017, suggesting telematics has done more to cut accident risk than any other road safety initiative aimed at the young driver market.

No. 1: Leverage Technology for Good.

As cars become increasingly connected, carriers could recommend using technologies that help minimize distractions to their customers. Auto manufacturers and even cell phone carriers could join forces with carriers as well in the design of these products.

Some examples include recent advancements in telematics programs, ADAS, and disabling social media notifications. For instance, auto manufacturers technology could make intuitive systems in which consumers do not feel the need to disable them due to over complexity or event pose a distraction themselves. A LexisNexis 2017 UBI study found “a substantial number of consumers indicated distraction as one of their concerns regarding the number and variety of features their cars offer.”

As technology capabilities continue to infiltrate the driving experience, carriers should continuously search for signs that show a driver’s risks. The challenge is in knowing that a driver may not show signs of distracted driving until the worst happens. Yet, technologies combined with information and outreach can help carriers and customers prevent these events, either with data intelligence, the rise of telematics and vehicle history data and by gaining data assets that can provide a 360-degree view of the customer.