Category Archives: Highway Safety

100 Deadliest Days Are Here; Teen Drivers Take Heed

Teenage drivers are on the roads in full force these days, whether reconnecting with friends after tough months of social isolation or commuting to summer jobs.

Summer has always been a dangerous time for young drivers. The period between Memorial Day and Labor Day has been dubbed the “100 Deadliest Days” due to the high proportion of fatal accidents involving teens.

Over 7,000 people died in teen driving-related summertime crashes from 2010 to 2019 in the United States, according to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. That’s more than seven people a day during these 100 Deadliest Days, compared to the rest of the year (six people a day).

Teens’ lack of driving experience and immaturity lead to dangerous practices behind the wheel, such as speeding, drinking, and tailgating. And when teen passengers are present in the vehicle, the risk of teen drivers getting into an accident goes up even more.

When a teen driver has only teen passengers in their vehicle, the fatality rate for all people involved in a crash increased 51 percent, according to AAA. But when older passengers (35 or older) ride with a teen driver, fatality rates in crashes decreased eight percent.

One trend having a positive impact on teen-caused accidents is that fewer of them are driving today than a generation ago. Only about 61 percent of 18-year-olds in the U.S. had a driver’s license in 2018, compared to 80.4 percent in 1983, according to an analysis by Green Car Congress.  The number of 16-year-old licensed drivers has also significantly decreased, from 46.2 percent in 1983 to 25.6 percent in 2018.

The reasons fewer teens are driving vary from the increased difficulty of obtaining a license to the ready availability of ride-sharing apps, to the higher cost of cars.

The increased difficulty can partly be attributed to the spread of graduated driver’s license (GDL) laws, which include a three-phase program that allows teen drivers to develop more mature driving attitudes and gain experience behind the wheel. These laws, passed by every state, have been successful in reducing teen motor vehicle accidents, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

In spite of the success of graduated licensing programs and other positive trends, AAA strongly encourages parents and guardians to model safe driving behaviors and discuss dangerous behaviors with teens, as even one fatality is one too many, and unfortunately the 100 Deadliest Days is not ready to be retired.

Additional resources:
Triple-I, Background on teen drivers
Triple-I, Facts & Statistics – Teen drivers

Studies: Car Crashes Rise as Recreational Cannabis Becomes Legal in States

Connecticut this week became the latest state to legalize recreational use of marijuana, and more are expected to follow.

The increased marijuana use that accompanies legalization has raised concerns about road safety.

Researchers at Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) since 2014 have been examining how legalization has affected crash rates and insurance claims, and evidence is emerging that crash rates go up when states legalize recreational use and retail sales of marijuana.

The most recent of these studies, released on June 17 by the IIHS, shows that injury and fatal crash rates in California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington jumped in the months following relaxation of marijuana laws in each state. The five states experienced a 6 percent increase in injury crash rates and a 4 percent increase in fatal crash rates, compared with other Western states where recreational marijuana use was illegal during the study period.

Only the increase in injury crash rates was statistically significant.

“Our latest research makes it clear that legalizing marijuana for recreational use does increase overall crash rates,” says IIHS-HLDI President David Harkey. “That’s obviously something policymakers and safety professionals will need to address as more states move to liberalize their laws — even if the way marijuana affects crash risk for individual drivers remains uncertain.”

Insurance records show a similar increase in claims under collision coverage, which pays for damage to an at-fault, insured driver’s own vehicle, according to HLDI’s latest analysis. The legalization of retail sales in Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington was associated with a 4 percent increase in collision claim frequency compared with the other Western states from 2012 to 2019. That’s down slightly from the 6 percent increase HLDI identified in a previous study, which covered 2012  to 2018.

While the evidence that crash rates have increased in states that legalized marijuana is mounting, it appears that further study is needed to determine whether marijuana use alone is responsible. Preliminary data suggests people who use alcohol and marijuana together are accountable for most of the crashes.

Another factor may be that marijuana users in counties that do not allow retail sales are driving to counties that do. The increased travel could lead to more crashes, even if their crash risk per mile traveled is no higher than that of other drivers.

Expect a Memorial Day travel surge

This Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer, many are feeling a renewed sense of hope as COVID-19 infection rates fall and vaccinated individuals are given the green light to travel.

Over 37 million Americans are planning trips of more than 50 miles from their homes this weekend, according to AAA, an increase of more than 60 percent from last year, but still 6 million fewer than 2019’s pre-pandemic travelers on the same weekend.

Drivers are reminded to exercise caution on the roads, as Memorial Day has some of the highest auto accident rates, with alcohol consumption as a major contributing factor.

Triple-I recently spoke with Forbes magazine about avoiding some of the other hazards of summer, including car theft, grill fires, and dog bite liability.

We hope that you take the extra precautions outlined in the Forbes article — as well as review your insurance coverage – and have a safe, healthy summer.

“Landscape of Fear”:
What Wolves Can Teach Us About Risk Mitigation

Reintroducing wolves into areas where they’ve previously been decimated seems to reduce car crashes involving deer by nearly 25 percent.

Huh? What? Is this one of those “Correlation doesn’t equal causation” memes?

Not at all.

Scientists in Wisconsin have gathered data about road collisions and wolf movements in the state to quantify how the arrival of wolves affected the frequency of deer-auto collisions.

“In a pretty short period of time, once wolves colonize a county, deer vehicle collisions go down about 24 percent,” said Dominic Parker, a natural resources economist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and co-author of their new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

You might say, “Well, of course – wolves eat deer, fewer deer means fewer collisions.” But it’s a bit more subtle than that. The scientists found that reintroducing wolves created what scientists call “a landscape of fear.”

“When you have a major predator around, it impacts how the prey behave,” Parker said. “Wolves use linear features of a landscape as travel corridors, like roads, pipelines and stream beds. Deer learn this and can adapt by staying away.”

Just one study

Now, of course, this is just one study, and it’s not being embraced by everyone – for example, farmers and ranchers who don’t love the reintroduction of predators that might kill their livestock or add to the cost of protecting the animals they raise.

“People who value the existence of wolves are often not in the same communities where wolves are present,” said Jennifer Raynor, Parker’s colleague and co-author. “Urban wildlife lovers may be happy to know that wolves exist out there, but rural people have to stare at the carcasses of livestock and pets.”

Deer-vehicle collisions “are happening in both urban and rural areas,” Raynor said. “No one is avoiding this problem” – which means rural people are also benefiting from wolves, whether they realize it or not.

On average, 19,757 Wisconsinites collide with deer every year, leading to about 477 injuries and eight deaths. Wolves save the state $10.9 million in losses every year, the scientists determined —a figure 63 times greater than the total compensation paid for the loss of livestock or pets.

The average cost of an animal-strike claim under comprehensive coverage for 2001-14 models during calendar years 2004-13 was $2,730. That’s a hefty price but still lower than the average payout of $3,510 for a collision claim, the Highway Loss Data Institute has found.

More research needed

Guillaume Chapron at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, who studies large carnivores, says the team hasn’t provided enough information about their statistical methods, the degree of uncertainty in their results, or details on how to replicate their analysis.

“It may be that they found a new dimension to the role played by wolves, but their paper makes a critical evaluation of their findings impossible,” he said. “I’m sure it will be loved by wolf advocates, but much less by statisticians.”

Eyes on natural risk mitigation

More research clearly is needed before anyone should begin advocating large-scale reintroduction of wolves into populous areas with an eye toward reducing auto insurance claims and premiums. But the study highlights an area to which insurers are paying increasing attention: natural risk mitigation.

For example, interest has risen in how restoration of natural ecosystems – such as mangrove forests and coral reefs – can reduce insured losses caused by storm surge caused by hurricanes.

In many places, mangroves are the first line of defense, their aerial roots helping to reduce erosion and dissipate storm surge. A healthy coral reef can reduce up to 97 percent of a wave’s energy before it hits the shore. Reefs — especially those that have been weakened by pollution, disease, overfishing, and ocean acidification — can be damaged by severe storms, reducing the protection they offer for coastal communities. 

In Florida, a recent study found, mangroves alone prevented $1.5 billion in direct flood damages and protected over half a million people during Hurricane Irma in 2017, reducing damages by nearly 25 percent. Another study found that mangroves actively prevent more than $65 billion in property damage and protect over 15 million people every year worldwide.

Communities, businesses, and families looking to reduce damages and their associated costs should look closely at natural, pre-emptive mitigation.

Learn More on the Triple-I Blog

Man-Made and Natural Hazards Both Demand a Resilience Mindset

Hurricane Delta Triggered Coral Reef Parametric Insurance

Mangrove Insurance: Parametric + Indemnity May Aid Coastal Resilience

Mangroves and Reefs: Insurance Can Help Protect Our Protectors

Distracted driving during the pandemic

Getty Images

Activities that take drivers’ attention off the road, including talking or texting on mobile devices, eating, and talking with passengers, are a major safety threat.

During the pandemic, while overall driving decreased, unsafe behavior by drivers rose in an alarming way. Motor vehicle deaths were up 8 percent in 2020 from the prior year – the highest percentage increase in 13 years, according to the National Safety Council.

Perhaps unaware of the danger, one in four drivers thinks roads are safer today than they were before the pandemic, yet a growing number of people reported using their mobile devices in unsafe ways while driving, according to the 2021 Travelers Risk Index on distracted driving.

The study found increases in the following behaviors:

  • Texting or emailing (26 percent, up from 19 percent pre-pandemic).
  • Checking social media (20 percent, up from 13 percent pre-pandemic).
  • Taking videos and pictures (19 percent, up from 10 percent pre-pandemic).
  • Shopping online (17 percent, up from 8 percent pre-pandemic).

“Traffic volumes were lower during the early days of the pandemic, which may have given drivers a false sense of security,” said Chris Hayes, Second Vice President of Workers Compensation and Transportation, Risk Control, at Travelers. “Not only did distracted driving increase, data from our telematics product IntelliDrive shows that speeding also became more prevalent. As travel restrictions are lifted around the country, it’s critical to slow down and stay focused on the road by eliminating distractions.”

Travelers’ findings suggest that many people may be feeling increased pressure to always be available for their jobs. This year, 48 percent of business managers said they expect employees to respond frequently to work-related calls, texts or emails, compared to 43 percent pre-pandemic. One in four respondents said they answer work-related calls and texts while behind the wheel, citing the following reasons:

  • 46 percent said they think it might be an emergency.
  • 29 percent said their supervisor would be upset if they don’t answer.
  • 22 percent said they are unable to mentally shut off from work.

Yet, a higher number of employers are concerned about liability from distracted driving. More than one-quarter (27 percent) indicated that they worry a great deal about their liability should an employee be involved in a crash because of distracted driving, up from 21 percent pre-pandemic.

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Here are a few resources to help reduce preventable crashes and keep everyone safe on the road:

Travelers Distracted Driving Prevention Materials
National Safety Council
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
OSHA Guidelines for Employers to Reduce Motor Vehicle Crashes

Will Pandemic
Driving Trends Persist
After COVID-19 Passes?

More people died in New York City automobile accidents in 2020 than in 2019, despite greatly reduced driving as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic slowdown. The local trend is consistent with broader ones recently referenced by Triple-I senior vice president and chief actuary James Lynch.

As of this morning’s reporting on WNYC, 227 people had died in car-related accidents this year in New York City, compared with 203 by this time last year. This increase appears to be due to more speeding and reckless driving, as documented by a doubling of speeding tickets in 2020, from more than 2 million to 4 million.

Similar trends are reported in other states. In Minnesota, 372 fatal accidents have been reported, compared with 346 this time last year.  Wisconsin reported a 7.4 percent increase in auto fatalities.

During the first six months of 2020, Colorado’s traffic deaths rose just by just 1 percent from the same period in 2019 – but the fatality rate per vehicle mile traveled rose by 20 percent.

Nationally, Triple-I’s Lynch said, “mileage driven this year is down 12 percent, but traffic fatalities are up 4 percent. The concern is that frequency patterns will return to the norm, but fast driving will keep claim severity high, putting upward pressure on rates.”

WNYC’s Steven Nessen reported some good news with respect to pedestrian deaths in New York, which are down to 93 from 108 this time last year. 

“If the city can keep it up, this may end up being the safest year for pedestrian deaths since Mayor DeBlasio took office,” Nessen said.

Nessen also noted that deaths of bicyclists in New York City were little changed in 2020 – notable because bicycle use has increased dramatically this year – and that reckless drivers “seem mostly to be killing themselves by hitting medians or trees.”

“Where we see a big jump in numbers is in motorcycle deaths,” he continued. “Those numbers nearly doubled this year, to forty-seven.”

This isn’t surprising, given that motorcycle fatalities – per vehicle miles traveled – occur nearly 27 times more frequently than passenger car occupant fatalities in crashes.

The Dangers of Driving During the Holiday Season

By Max Dorfman, Research Writer, Triple-I

As the holiday season continues to ramp up, it’s important to remember that this time of year is particularly risky for driving. That’s why December has been officially designated Drugged and Drunk Driving Prevention month.

During the Christmas holidays, alcohol-impaired fatalities in 2018 comprised 37 percent of total traffic fatalities, compared to 29 percent total for all times of the year. In total, there are more than 750 fatalities in December due to drunk driving, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

According to National Safety Council, the average number of traffic deaths during New Year’s Day over the last five holidays is almost 68 percent greater than the average number of traffic deaths during nonholiday periods, with 175 deaths compared to the usual 104 deaths.

Drunk driving is not the only reason people get into dangerous accidents during the holidays. Extreme weather can also contribute to risks during the blustery winter season, including snow, black ice, high winds and hail. Fatigued and stressed driving is also an issue during the holidays, with individuals potentially traveling further than they usually do. And in 2020, anxiety related to the coronavirus pandemic may make these stress-related issues worse.

With this in mind, it’s important to remember some tips to remain safe while driving during the holiday season, including:

  • Drive defensively by taking precautions while driving, paying close attention to the cars around you. Even if you’re not drinking or driving recklessly, others may be.
  • Do not drive if you are drinking, making sure you have safe, sober transportation, regardless of how far you’re traveling.
  • Plan for inclement weather by checking weather forecasts and changing your plans if necessary.

Remember: the holidays can be a busy and stressful time for people, but that’s no reason to let your guard down while driving.

For more safe driving tips check out this Triple-I video.

Usage-Based Insurance Gets Confidence Boost During COVID-19 Pandemic

Drivers seem to have become more comfortable in the past year with the idea of giving up their data to help insurers more accurately price their coverage.

In May 2019, mobility data and analytics firm Arity surveyed 875 licensed drivers over the age of 18 to find out how comfortable they would be having their insurance premiums adjusted based on typical telematics variables. Between 30 and 40 percent said they would be either very or extremely comfortable sharing this data.

In May of this year, they ran the survey again with more than 1,000 licensed drivers.

“This time,” Arity says, “about 50 percent of drivers were comfortable with having their insurance priced based on the number of miles they drive, where they drive, and what time of day they drive, as well as distracted driving and speeding.”

This is a year-over-year increase of more than 12%. What happened?

The answer begins with a “C” and ends with a “19.”

Money talks…

Telematic information was part of the reason insurers could return money quickly to their customers during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that fact seems to have brought positive attention to usage-based insurance (UBI). Telematics combines GPS with on-board diagnostics to record and map where a car is, its condition, and how fast it’s traveling. This technology is integral to UBI, in which insurers are able to adjust premiums based on driving behavior.

During the first wave of the pandemic, Arity data showed considerable changes in how and when people were driving when they began to self-quarantine in March 2020. Driving across the U.S. dropped significantly, and this data helped spark the trend of insurance carriers offering refunds to their policyholders.

“These paybacks were widely covered by the media, including Forbes, so consumers became aware of the potential savings, even if their own insurer didn’t offer a discount,” Arity reports.

“Private-passenger auto insurers returned around $14 billion in premiums this year to the nation’s drivers as miles driven dropped dramatically in the pandemic’s early months,” says James Lynch, Triple-I’s chief actuary. “This resulted in a five percent reduction in the cost of auto insurance for the typical driver in 2020, as compared to 2019.” 

Based on gas consumption, we’re nearly back to driving at pre-pandemic/recession levels

By Dr. Steven Weisbart, Chief Economist, Insurance Information Institute

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) publishes extensive data on petroleum production, refining and supplies to users, with some data provided on a weekly basis. Gasoline supplied to retailers is not quite the same as gasoline consumed but it is close. And gasoline consumed is not exactly the same as miles driven but it is close.  Consequently these data can indicate how much people are driving, sooner than we get data on the frequency and severity of collisions. Still, one benefit of tracking these data is that they are published in a timely way.

As a baseline, consider gasoline supplied in the first 12 weeks of 2020, compared to the comparable weeks in 2019 (Figure 1). Although this comparison can be affected by changes in prices from year to year as well as changes in weather (and possibly other differences between the two periods), we can assume that these differences are small and do not obscure longer-term trends.

The graph shows some week-to-week variation, but basically the same—or maybe a little less—gas supplied in 2020 vs. 2019.

Then the pandemic—and the start of the recession caused by fighting it—happened. Driving was sharply curtailed, and auto insurers instituted programs for refunding premiums to reflect this change. Figure 2 adds to Figure 1 the percentage change in year-over-year supplies of gas for the rest of March and all of April 2020.

But in May some states began relaxing various restrictions, and driving began to return to near-pre-pandemic/recession levels, as Figure 3 shows.

At this point there is no way to know what caused this spike in gas usage, but some speculate that any or all of the following could be responsible:

•        States are moving to more permissive stages of lockdown, resulting in more travel, especially to beaches and other outdoor activities

•        People who once took public transportation are now choosing to drive, thereby lessening exposure to the virus that might result from travel on mass transit

•        Warmer weather months are traditionally a time for more driving

•        The price of gas continues to be unusually low, making driving less burdensome than the prior year.

Deer season creates road hazards

By Max Dorfman, Research Writer, Insurance Information Institute

Deer season—which usually runs from October through December—can be a dangerous time for motorists. During this period, deer are moving frequently and often cross over dangerous areas, like highways and other heavily-trafficked areas.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, there are more than 1.5 million accidents related to deer every year, which result in over $1 billion in vehicle damages. And these accidents aren’t merely expensive: 211 people died in collisions with animals in 2017.

Indeed, between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019 one out of every 116 drivers had an insurance claim from hitting an animal, according to State Farm. These claims were most likely in West Virginia, with one in 38 people making an insurance claim based on this kind of accident.

With this in mind, it’s important to take precautions when driving during this period of the year. Deer often travel in groups, so it’s vital to slow down with even one deer on the side of the road. Additionally, try to brake instead of swerving if faced with a crash. Above all, be alert—there’s no substitute for prudence during deer season.

The Insurance Information Institute has Facts & Statistics on deer vehicle collisions here.