CHICAGO- Memorial Day is quickly approaching and that means it’s time to talk about summertime auto safety. Vacations, graduation parties and other celebrations ultimately bring out more drivers—and the potential for more auto accidents, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI).
Auto accidents have increased 14 percent over the past two years—the biggest increase in over half a century. Last year, 4.6 million people were significantly injured on the roads, a 31 percent increase over the last seven years and a 12 percent increase since 2014.
“Distracted driving is thought to be one of the leading causes for the rise in vehicle accidents nationwide, and summertime activities will bring even more distracted drivers to the roads,” said Bob Passmore, PCI’s assistant vice president of personal lines policy. “Drivers aren’t just talking and texting, either. Increasingly, drivers are surfing the web, engaging on social media and using apps.”
According to TrueMotion, an usage-based insurance app company, 92 percent of drivers use their smartphones while driving, and 71 percent text while driving. More pedestrians and bicyclists also are on the roads in the summer, and they too are increasingly distracted by smartphones, putting everyone on the road in danger.
Other factors such increased traffic congestion, more marijuana-impaired drivers, higher speed limits, and aging roads also are contributing to the rising number of auto accidents. Each of these factors is further exacerbated by the distracted driving epidemic.
“While safety is always the first concern, auto accident trends also could be hitting consumers’ pocketbooks by putting upward pressure on insurance costs,” said Passmore. “Raising awareness about these alarming statistics and the continued threat of distracted driving can help make our roads safer and keep costs down for consumers. With summer road construction, overall congestion and historically high numbers of impaired drivers on the roads on Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day, we all need to make an extra effort to drive responsibly this summer.”
Simple modifications to driver behaviors can prevent auto accidents and save lives. PCI offers the following tips for safe summer driving.
PCI’s 8 Safety Tips for Summer Driving:
Avoid distracted driving. Don’t talk, text or use apps while driving. Put the phone down and just drive. Try to limit other distractions, such as eating or fiddling with controls, and be aware that having more passengers in the car multiplies the opportunity for distraction. Secure pets in the back of the car.
Designate a driver. If you plan to drink at a summer celebration, always designate a sober driver or arrange for a taxi or ride service.
Wear your seatbelt. Whether you’re taking a summer get-away or just running errands around town, buckle up and drive safely. Seat belts save lives and help prevent injuries. Also, make sure kids are in the proper car or booster seats.
Give yourself plenty of time. Plan ahead and allow extra travel time. With more people on the roads, often driving in unfamiliar territory, the potential for a traffic crash increases. Plan routes in advance when traveling to new destinations and be patient.
Pay attention to your speed. Observe speed limits, including lower speeds in work zones. Stay focused on the road and be aware of changing traffic patterns caused by construction. Be especially cautious around construction workers. They’re often working close to the highway and at great risk.
Beware of crash taxes. Although crash taxes have been banned or limited in several states, many cities, counties and fire districts will charge the at-fault driver for the emergency response costs of an auto accident. Fees can range from $100 to more than $2,000, and a typical insurance policy does not cover those costs.
Have a plan for roadside assistance. If you’re involved in an accident, beware of unscrupulous towing companies. Some towing companies take advantage of drivers after an accident by charging excessive fees and making it difficult for people to retrieve their cars. Have the phone number for your insurer or a roadside assistance program ready.
Update your proof of insurance. Before hitting the road, replace any expired insurance identification cards so you can provide current proof of insurance during a traffic stop.