The 'Disconnect' Over Distracted Driving

Recent studies show that drivers checking phones or other diversions are much more distracted than they believe, and insurers are taking notice.

Posted: Apr. 13, 2018 11:37 AM
Updated: Apr. 13, 2018 11:40 AM

PORTLAND, Ore. — While most Oregonians are aware that distracted driving is both unsafe and unwise, recent studies indicate that this awareness hasn't put a stop to the habit. Meanwhile, insurance rates are climbing.

The 2018 Travelers Risk Index found that 85 percent of drivers surveyed agree that distracted driving is a major risk—but almost a quarter of those same people said that they can safely drive while distracted.

Distracted Driving Prevention Tips:

  • Turn off your phone and put it in your glove box while you are driving to avoid the temptation of answering a call or text.
  • If you’re a passenger, hold the driver’s phone.
  • Don’t text or call a friend or loved one if you know they are driving.
  • Add an “app” to your phone, or add a setting to your phone, to automatically reply to calls or messages telling the person by text that you are driving and will contact them when you are no longer behind the wheel.
  • If using a GPS on your phone, plug in the address before you start the car and use a mounted phone holder.
  • Talk to family members, especially teen drivers, about the risks of cell phone use. Model responsible behavior by not using your phone while driving.
  • If you need to call or text someone while driving, ask a passenger to type the text or make the call. If you don’t have passengers, pull off the road in a safe location before using your phone.
  • Don’t eat or drink while driving, and all personal grooming should be done at home and not while driving.
  • Consider installing an app that can disable texting and hold calls while you’re driving.
  • Ask your teen to sign a parent-teen driving contract or agreement that details the promises, rules and consequences of driving so everyone is on the same page. One example of such a contract is available on the CDC’s website.

The same study revealed that 40 percent of drivers admitted to being distracted for 15 minutes per hour on the road. Another 10 percent of respondents said that they were 'frequently distracted' by technology while driving.

According to the NW Insurance Council (NWIC), auto crashes are on the rise—which means insurance rates are as well. The national average for auto insurance expense has climbed from $812 in 2012 to $889 in 2015, from numbers compiled by the Insurance Information Institute (III).

“What we’re seeing, especially with more vehicles on the road traveling for work and leisure, is a rise in crash rates, and as the cost to treat injuries and repair vehicles increases, those crashes are having an impact on the cost of insurance,” said Kenton Brine, NW Insurance Council President.

Costs are rising not purely because of increasing crashes, but from the tickets that result from enforcement of new distracted driving laws. Oregon's Distracted Driving Law just took effect on October 1, 2017.

CLICK HERE for our story on increased distracted driving patrols happening this month in Southern Oregon.

“Insurers also are now able to see if drivers have been cited for, or have caused a collision, while being distracted behind the wheel, which should serve as a wake-up call for drivers who think they can evade an accident, a ticket or insurance consequences,” said Brine.

But the price of distracted driving isn't solely measured in money. According to the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), there were 1,040 crashes between 2012 and 2016 where it was confirmed that a driver was using a cell phone at the time. These crashes produced 19 fatalities and 4,497 injuries, according to ODOT.

It takes a driver 27 seconds to refocus on the road after using a smartphone while driving, according to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. At 25 mph, a car can travel the length of three football fields in 27 seconds, said a NWIC statement—giving plenty of room for a crash to occur.

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