MONTGOMERY-The back-to-school rush can create congestion on the roads as shopping, school activities, and travel to college campuses increase. That’s why it’s more important than ever during these end-of-summer weeks for parents and students to be mindful of auto safety—and distracted driving in particular.
Vehicle crashes and fatalities are rising sharply in Alabama and across the country, and distracted driving is thought to be one of the leading causes for this alarming trend. The National Safety Council preliminary 2017 data shows that motor vehicle deaths surpassed 40,000 for the second consecutive year in 2017 and 4.57 million people were seriously injured in motor vehicle crashes. In 2016, the crash fatality rate in Alabama was higher than the national crash fatality rate.
A recent study by Zendrive, an analytics company, found that on an average day, more than 60 percent of people use their phones at least once while behind the wheel. Based on United States Census data, this means that at least 69 million drivers use their phones while driving each day.
To increase awareness of these trends and the dangers of distracted driving, The Alabama Center for Insurance Information at The University of Alabama Culverhouse College of Business and the Alabama Department of Insurance have partnered with the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) to produce an online Auto Safety Guide that provides information on distraction-related crashes and offers safe driving tips.
“Every time we get in the car, we see people texting or talking on their cell phones,” said Logan McFaddin, PCI’s Alabama regional manager. “Increasingly, drivers are also posting on social media, scrolling through playlists, live streaming video, and binge-watching television shows instead of giving their full attention to the road.”
YouTube and Netflix are both in the 10 apps that people are using while driving, according to TrueMotion, a technology company that tracks driving habits. And according to the Alabama Department of Transportation, a texting driver is 23 times more likely to get into a crash than a non-texting driver.
“Distracted driving crashes—and the resulting fatalities and injuries—can be prevented,” said Stephanie Tompkins, a consumer complaint specialist at the Alabama Department of Insurance. “But to do that, our driving habits need to change. Finishing our phone calls, sending our texts, and setting our music and maps before putting the car in drive are some of the simplest and most effective actions we all can take to prevent crashes.”
Addressing distracted driving laws also is important. More and more states are implementing laws banning smartphone use while driving. “Distracted drivers pose a very real risk to themselves, their passengers, pedestrians, cyclists, and everyone else on the road—especially during the back-to-school rush,” said Lars Powell, director of the Alabama Center for Insurance Information at the University of Alabama’s Culverhouse College of Business. “Enforcing and educating drivers about distracted driving laws are critical next steps to prevent tragedies.”
Simple modifications to driver behaviors can prevent auto crashes and save lives. PCI, the Alabama Center for Insurance Information and the Alabama Department of Insurance offer the following additional tips for safe driving.
Top 7 Safe Driving Tips:
The online auto safety magazine is available at: http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/c400c3b8#/c400c3b8/8
For more information:
Assistant Vice President, Public Affairs
Alabama Center for Insurance Information and Research
The University of Alabama
Public Information Officer
Alabama Department of Insurance