Stress, Technology to Blame for Distracted Driving

It’s time to put the phone down while driving and pay attention to the road. In its most recent research, The Travelers Companies Inc. said as retailers and wholesalers fret over inflation and ongoing supply chain issues, “new data found that they also need to worry about employees and distracted driving.”

According to the company’s 2023 Travelers Risk Index on distracted driving, the company said, “over one-third (35 percent) of wholesale respondents indicated they have been involved in an accident while driving for work due to being distracted.”

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“Distracted driving can have devastating consequences for families and communities, with accidents, injuries and fatalities on the rise,” said Michael Klein, executive vice president and president of personal insurance at Travelers. “Avoiding distractions while driving is more than just common sense; it’s a responsible and critical step in protecting lives and promoting public health.”

The survey found that electronic devices were one of the top causes of distraction. Making or receiving calls was blamed by 80 percent of respondents and was followed by using a handheld device, with 57 percent, and then posting on social media, with 28 percent. Taking pictures or videos was 27 percent.

“Using technology while driving was also a challenge cited by employers, with more than 30 percent of executives (a 19 percent increase from last year) reporting that their employees have been involved in crashes while driving for business purposes because they were distracted by their mobile devices,” the report’s authors noted.

But technology is not the only factor to blame. The report also cited drowsiness, heightened emotions and work-related stress as factors in distracted driving. “More than 75 percent of drivers said that they have experienced stress or intense emotions while behind the wheel, and 62 percent said that they have driven while drowsy,” the report stated, also noting that 37 percent of workers polled “said that they have taken work-related calls, texts or emails while driving. When asked why, 44 percent said that it might be a work-related emergency and 43 percent responded that they felt the need to always be available.”

Of those polled, 70 percent said they believe distracted driving “is more of a problem now than it has been over the past few years.” The Travelers Cos. said that the finding “is underscored by estimates from the National Safety Council, which show that deaths due to preventable traffic crashes in 2022 increased by 18 percent compared with pre-pandemic levels.”

When asked what would motivate them to stay focused and pay more attention to driving, 84 percent said it would be a passenger requesting that the driver not use the phone. Eighty-three percent said it would be a financial reward, and 82 percent said the incentive would be an auto insurance discount. And 81 percent said increased monetary fines would do the trick.

Chris Hayes, assistant vice president of workers’ compensation and transportation, risk control, at Travelers, said driving is a series “of micro-decisions made in quick succession throughout the course of a trip. Any type of distraction — a device, a sleepless night or stress — can make the difference between reaching your destination safely or not.”

Hayes went on to say that “we can all help make our roads safer by taking simple steps, such as putting our phones in ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode, speaking up when we see a driver engaging in dangerous behaviors and not calling coworkers when we know that they’re behind the wheel.”

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