April is Distracted Driving Month – It’s a Great Time to Talk to Your Teen about Distracted Driving (Again!)
The insurance professionals at Bearingstar feel a very strong responsibility to share the facts about what could happen when you take your eyes off the road for even a second. We also want to offer our best advice to all Massachusetts and Connecticut parents and guardians with young drivers on how to avoid a dangerous situation on the road due to distractions such as your technology, your passengers, and trying to eat or drink while driving.
For that reason, we are encouraging not just our clients, but the entire community, to join us in recognizing April as Distracted Driving Month, and to take the Just Drive pledge with us. Together, we hope to make this the year that our clients, co-workers, friends and family make a commitment to getting rid of in-car distractions that threaten our safety and our lives.
Many of us may think that we have tackled our distracted driving habits, but the numbers just aren’t proving this out. In fact, the National Safety Council (NSC) has estimated that motor-vehicle deaths are up 6% in 2016. Even gloomier news is that the numbers from 2014 to 2016 are up 14%. There are many factors that are contributing to the rise in fatalities including an increase in miles driven due to lower gas prices, and an improving economy. The NSC projected that there are 3% more drivers on the road and these drivers are more and more distracted by things like technology.
If you’re thinking that we’re probably much better drivers here in Massachusetts and Connecticut than the rest of the United States, think again! When we look at Massachusetts, specifically, the two-year number is a 15% increase which is basically the same as the national results. And, in Connecticut, the numbers are drastically higher; a 23% increase in deaths related to a vehicular accident, which is nearly 10% higher than the estimated countrywide average.
As your dedicated insurance professionals – and neighbors – here in Massachusetts and Connecticut, these statistics are very concerning to us. While we may not have control over how many cars are on the roads, we can make sure to educate you on the dangers of distracted driving and take active steps to combat it.
Of course, we can’t fix what we don’t completely understand, so let’s take a step back and talk about what distracted driving actually is. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines distracted driving as:
“…any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system—anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving.”
It’s nothing to be ashamed of if you’re realizing that, unbeknownst to you, you have actually been committing distracted driving by performing one or more of these activities while driving. Trust us, we are certain you are not alone.
Distracted driving is not age-specific. Whether you’re 20, 40 or 60, there’s a good chance that you’ve sipped a cup of Dunkin’ coffee, rummaged around in your bag for lip gloss, or glanced at your cell phone when it alerted you, all while trying to focus on the road as well. These behaviors are dangerous no matter your experience as a driver, and so we encourage you to #JustDrive because it truly could save your life or someone else’s. In addition, there is one segment of drivers that is statistically more likely to have a fatal accident due to distracted driving than any other and they really need you to set a great example for them.
AAA reports that teen drivers crash four times more often than adult drivers do. The most recent data available from 2015 from the NHTSA on www.distraction.gov website reports that 80% of the people who were killed in distracted driving crashes in that year were teens 15 – 19 years old.
Both Massachusetts and Connecticut have strict laws and penalties in place that ban cell phone use for teens under the age of 18. And both states also have special restrictions for teen drivers that prevent them from having a passenger in their vehicle who is not a parent or experienced driver over the age of 20. In a perfect world these laws would be a big enough deterrent for a teen. But, dig deep into your memory bank for a minute, and recall the emotions of being a teenager… you often felt invincible, maybe even thought breaking “small” rules made you cool. That’s why, despite the importance of the laws, they just aren’t enough to keep our teens safe.
So, one thing a parent can easily do is lead by example (remember #JustDrive), but are there other ways that you can help your teen stay safe on the road?
At Bearingstar Insurance, we understand what an important topic this is for all guardians. That is why we are excited to announce we will be hosting three special events for Connecticut residents called the Distractology Driving Simulator Tour. These events are funded and sponsored by the Arbella Insurance Foundation. The Distractology driver simulation training puts teen drivers behind the wheel to experience real-world distractions that can cause real-world accidents. To date, more than 12,000 in-experienced operators have completed the Distractology training and the data is proving that drivers who have completed Distractology are proven to be 19 percent less likely to have an accident and 25 percent less likely to get traffic violations*.
The team at Bearingstar cares about safety and will continue to find ways to educate you on topics that are important to you and your family. That’s why, in this blog, we wanted to recognize the importance of Distracted Driving month. We believe it is crucial to always share the latest facts with our clients and we also encourage you to share this data with your teen driver. Wouldn’t today be a good day to have “the talk” with your teen about road safety and the hazards of distracted driving once again?
* Results are based upon data obtained from Arbella Mutual Insurance Company’s youthful operators who took the Distractology training when compared to those who did not from 2010 through 2014.