In 2016, 3,450 people were killed in traffic accidents involving a distracted driver, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. That number represents 9 percent of all 37,461 traffic fatalities that year, which is the most recent year for which distraction data is available.
Thousands are dying each year, yet nearly 80 percent of drivers admit talking on their phones while driving. Over 30 percent admit to having had a near-miss accident while they were distracted. And 19 percent said they would continue to drive distracted even if it were illegal — which it is.
This information comes from a recent survey of over 2,000 consumers and executives for the 2019 Travelers Risk Index by Travelers Companies. The survey examined the frequency of distracted driving behaviors and attitudes toward reducing them.
Executives were interviewed because they often put pressure on workers to be available even when they’re not in the office, and that can lead to distracted driving. Unfortunately, it appears that many workplaces don’t consider distracted driving when making policies about employee availability.
The distractions keep coming — and getting worse
The Travelers Risk Index found that the surveyed drivers were engaging in some behind-the-wheel activities that seem incredibly distracting:
- 44 percent of drivers admitted typing texts or emails
- 23 percent admitted using social media
- 22 percent admitted taking photos or recording videos
- 15 percent admitted shopping online
Just when we think we’ve seen it all, drivers continue to engage in ever-more potentially life-threatening behavior. Moreover, many of those surveyed said it would be difficult or very difficult to stop. In fact, 5 percent of survey respondents said it would be very difficult to stop shopping online while they were driving.
As we mentioned, pressure from the boss to be available at all times has ramped up the pressure to engage in distracting behaviors. Of the executives surveyed, 87 percent said they expected their employees to be sometimes or frequently available when they’re not in the office.
At least 20 percent of the consumers interviewed admitted that work pressure to be available had led them to drive distracted. Almost half said either that they always need to be available or that they didn’t want to miss a work emergency.
Another 17 percent admitted that driving is when they get a lot of work done.
Travelers found that about 75 percent of workplaces have distracted driving policies. Of those, however, only 18 percent actually advise employees to set their phones to “do not disturb” when they are driving.
What can we do to reduce distracted driving?
According to the Travelers survey, speaking up could make a big difference. Of the consumers surveyed, 16 percent said they rarely or never say something when riding in a car with a distracted driver. However, 54 percent said they would probably stop driving distracted if a passenger asked them to do so.
Other research has found that parents can be effective at reducing distracted driving among their teens by having discussions and setting clear expectations. About two-thirds of parents say they have had such a conversation with their kids.
Finally, we can hold bad drivers financially responsible for the harm they cause through personal injury lawsuits. If you or a loved one has been injured by a distracted driver, meet with an experienced attorney for an evaluation of your situation and advice about what to do next.