Category Archives: Highway Safety

Insurers Active In Auto Crash Prevention Efforts

2016 may have been the deadliest year on the roads since 2007, with an estimated cost to society of $432 billion, according to preliminary data released by the National Safety Council (NSC).

“As many as 40,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2016, a 6 percent increase over 2015 and a 14 percent increase over 2014—the most dramatic two-year escalation in 53 years.”

A recent Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) white paper on personal auto insurance offered this prescient warning:

“There has been an alarming increase in crashes and claims reported. This, combined with the cost of the claims themselves, has led to a dramatic rise in the overall loss cost.”

And:

Technology is both improving and complicating matters, making vehicles safer but at the same time amplifying possible driver distractions, as discussed in this New York Times article.

The NSC call for life-saving measures, includes:

Extend laws banning all cell phone use – including hands-free – to all drivers, not just teens; upgrade enforcement from secondary to primary in states with existing bans.

I.I.I. tips on how to keep your auto insurance affordable here.

Distracted Driving? There’s An App To Prevent That

Is Apple liable over a fatal car crash involving FaceTime? That’s the question being asked in a lawsuit filed against Apple by the family of a five-year-old girl killed in a Texas car crash.

Moriah Modisette was killed and her father seriously injured when driver Garrett Willhelm plowed into their car at 65 mph on a Texas highway on Christmas Eve 2014.

As reported by Fortune, Willhelm was chatting on FaceTime at the time of the crash, and the app was still running as rescue workers tried to extricate the injured passengers from the mangled car.

In the lawsuit, the family claims that Apple had failed to install a “lock-out” feature on FaceTime that would prevent drivers from using the app while on the road.

The lawsuit underscores why liability insurance and product liability insurance are important for businesses.

After years of decline in road fatalities, numbers were up 8 percent in 2015. Many believe the rise is due at least in part to distracted driving.

In 2014, 3,179 people were killed in distraction-affected crashes, and 431,000 people injured, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data.

But apps are not all bad. Several app developers are working to create ways to help make your cellphone a tool in the fight against distracted driving, rather than a cause of it.

Check out DMV.org for distracted driving apps that incentivize safe driving by keeping your attention off your phone and on the road.

USA Today reviewed other apps aimed at preventing distracted driving here.

Distracted Drivers, Meet the Textalyzer

After years of decline in road fatalities, numbers were up 8 percent in 2015. Many believe the rise is due at least in part to distracted driving and advocates are looking to programs that have successfully curtailed drunk driving for potential solutions.

The New York Times reports that one idea from New York lawmakers, would give police officers a new digital device that is the equivalent of the Breathalyzer — a roadside test called the Textalyzer.

An officer arriving at the scene of a crash could ask for the phones of any drivers involved and use the Textalyzer to tap into the operating system to check for recent activity, according to the New York Times article.

“The technology could determine whether a driver had used the phone to text, email or do anything else that is forbidden under New York’s hands-free driving laws, which prohibit drivers from holding phones to their ears. Failure to hand over a phone could lead to the suspension of a driver’s license, similar to the consequences for refusing a Breathalyser.”

However, the proposed legislation faces hurdles to becoming law, including privacy concerns, even though the Textalyzer bill would not give the police access to contents of any emails or texts.

If the law were to pass in New York, some believe it could spread across other states in the same way that the hands-free rules did after New York adopted them.

This is an interesting idea. The insurance industry has long been a major supporter of anti-drunk driving and seatbelt usage campaigns.

Distraction was a factor in 10 percent of fatal crashes reported in 2013, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data. Some 14 percent of distraction-affected crashes occurred while a cell phone was in use, the NHTSA notes.

A Highway Loss Data Institute study of collision claims patterns in four states (California, Louisiana, Minnesota and Washington) also found that texting bans may not reduce crash rates. Collisions went up slightly in all the states, except Washington, where the change was statistically insignificant.

The use of technology to better assess risk is something that insurers embrace in many different lines of business, including auto and health. Clearly, privacy concerns will need to be weighed, but this is a novel approach to tackling the distracted driving problem.

Check out Insurance Information Institute statistics on distracted driving here.

Too Fast, Too Young

Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) chief actuary James Lynch brings us a cautionary tale from  the open road:

It’s a gritty drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco as I learned with my wife and older daughter this summer — a climb through dry mountains, then across the nation’s Salad Bowl, the San Joaquin Valley, passing strings of tractor-trailers headed up the interstate toward Sacramento and cow country.

Like most tourists, we left the trailers behind by turning west on state Route 46. My wife drove. We passed a thicket of oil derricks and, frankly, not much else. The roads were well-designed and well-kept. Everyone drove fast. Far off we saw the hills that would lead us to Highway 101 and north again.

We came upon what, for that desolate place, was a major intersection — a flashing yellow light and a lane that let oncoming traffic turn left in front of us. A line of cars waited to make that left. Daylight was fading, and it was hard to pick out exactly how many wanted to turn or whether any had begun to.

“That looks like a dangerous spot,” I said.

Then we saw the sign: James Dean Memorial Junction.

Yeah. Right there, 60 years ago — September 30, 1955 — actor James Dean was cruising maybe 85 in his Porsche Spyder when Donald Turnupseed turned left. In moments Dean went from an astounding actor (East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause, Giant) to a roadside tragedy.

He wasn’t a teen-ager, but he was a teen idol squeezed between the Sinatra and Elvis eras, and now his case is one I can’t help but think of as that older daughter baby-steps toward her first license this fall.

2015 09 25 cholame

 

James Dean Memorial Junction still seems dodgy, but overall driving is much safer. The accident rate has fallen on average about 1 percent a year for decades. But long-term trends have statistical blips. We are in one now.

As we at the I.I.I. note in our Facts and Statistics on highway safety, traffic fatalities at mid-year are 14 percent higher than the same period last year, according to National Safety Council estimates. The economy has improved. People are driving more and perhaps less safely — faster, more texting.

The third week in October is National Teen Driver Safety Week, an event my daughter will be made well aware of, but this year we should all heed its message: Be careful behind the wheel.