Distracted driving costs lives and raises insurance premiums

By | April 9, 2018 5:57 am

A split second decision to use a cell phone while driving can lead to disasterous consequences. Law enforcement officials urge all drivers to exercise extreme caution and follow the tips provided in the story below.

Across the nation, April has been designated as an awareness month in hopes of encouraging drivers to adopt safer driving practices and to be aware of the dangers of distracted driving.

With the start of national Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance and law enforcement agencies are urging drivers to commit to safer driving habits by putting away their smartphones, other cellular devices, and any distraction that could take a driver’s attention away from the road.

The use of technology behind the wheel has become an increasingly common cause of distracted driving incidents across the state. Distracted driving can be created by anything that diverts a driver’s attention away from the road and the inherently dangerous task of driving.

“We are always watching and looking for distracted drivers,” stated Sparta Police Chief Jeff Guth. “Cell phones can definitely be a distraction to drivers. But we are also finding other distractions as well – drivers wearing headphones and listening to music too loudly, multitasking, and a child can also lead to distracting drivers. Our own officers have to be careful as well. We have to remind them not to allow themselves to get distracted, as well, with answering calls and with their work laptops and such.”

Drivers in Tennessee are encouraged to participate in the state’s “Put it in Park” campaign officially launched this month. When a motorist needs to utilize an electronic device that can be distracting, law enforcement officials state it should wait until your vehicle is in park.

“Drivers face distractions beyond texting on a smartphone,” stated Julie Mix McPeak, Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance commissioner. “Distractions can include looking after children or pets, eating, reading, applying makeup, or playing with the radio. By raising awareness about the larger dangers of distracted driving, I hope to prevent a potentially tragic accident from occurring.”

From 2007 to 2017, according to data collected by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, White County recorded 524 crashes that involved distracted driving.

“Our state agency has seen an upswing in crashes that can be directly contributed to distracted driving,” stated Capt. R.C. Christian, of Tennessee Highway Patrol’s Cookeville District. “Our society has grown [so] accustomed to electronic devices that we fail to recognize the dangers associated with diverting our total attention to driving. Last year in the Cookeville District, we had three fatalities directly related to distracted driving. We take this very serious, and troopers are constantly looking for violations. It is evident lives depend on it.”

According to statistics, distracted driving is becoming an increasing cause in creating fatal incidents. In addition to the tragic loss of life, distracted driving is contributing to the rise in auto insurance premiums for motorists, in Tennessee.

The higher the accident rate, the more claims insurers have to pay. In turn, insurers transfer these costs to customers in the form of higher premiums, often based on information about traffic violations and accidents from driving records.

From 2004 to 2009, the national average expenditures for auto insurance rates went down every year (from $843, in 2004, to $787, in 2009), according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. As technology has become more prevalent, the average expenditures for auto insurance rates increased in 2010 – for the first time in five years.

Since then, expenditures have gone up every year. Average expenses for auto insurance, in 2015, were $889, up nearly 12 percent from 2007.

Tennessee has been affected as well. The cumulative average increase of the largest 10 carriers, in Tennessee, 2010-2013 was 17.82 percent.

Law enforcement officials want to remind drivers of the following tips.

-Start sober, and don’t get behind the wheel while impaired.

-When behind the wheel of a vehicle, don’t use your phone.

-If using your phone’s navigation, plan a safe route before taking the car out of park.

-Pick your tunes, podcast, station or playlist, and set at a volume that allows you to focus on driving.

-Parents, be a good example to your children by putting your phones away when driving.

-Teens, speak up if your friends are driving distracted or unsafely in any way.

-Ask passengers to help you focus on the road and their safety.

-Obey speed limits, and keep your eyes on the road.

-Don’t allow music in the vehicle to become too loud. If the driver can’t hear the blinker sound on the vehicle’s turn signal, the music is too loud.

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