Put down your phone, save a life

Op Ed By: Lynn Vigneault, CISR
Vice President, Personal Lines

It is no secret that the number of vehicle accidents is increasing in Maine and across the country. While accidents happen for a variety of reasons, one of the ways we can all help to ensure the roads are safe is to eliminate distracted driving.

In today’s age of technology and social media, this is no easy feat. However, driving without distractions can save lives.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently reported that each day in the United States, approximately 9 people are killed and more than 1,000 injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver.

In just this year alone, there have been over 100 traffic fatalities in Maine, according to the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety. While not all accidents are related to distracted driving, eliminating that risk is just one solution in trying to prevent accidents from occurring.

So, where do we go from here? How do we get a handle on the temptation of using devices or doing something else while driving?

I believe the solution to this growing problem is you. You can help yourself and your loved ones commit to driving safely while using their vehicles.

First, it is important to know that distracted driving means more than just texting or talking on the phone while you are on the road. Distracted driving can also be related to eating, doing makeup or grooming, taking a picture, changing the music, posting on social media or using your GPS.

As Vice President of Personal Lines at P&C Insurance, we are seeing the numbers continue to rise in distracted driving accidents every day, across all age groups. As part of my role, I work with our clients to educate and provide tips to prevent distractions while driving.

From the insurance company’s perspective, having just one violation of distracted driving means that you are a high risk. With a distracted driving violation, you could face a surcharge in your auto insurance payments from a nonstandard carrier. Beyond that, many of the standard insurance carriers will not accept you under their insurance with that on your record. As harsh as that may sound, distracted driving is something that insurance companies do not want to risk.

With the rise in severe vehicle accidents, insurance companies are looking at the increasing risk of vehicle accidents and the probability of drivers operating their vehicles while distracted. Consequently, the cost of auto insurance is continuing to rise, as much as 21.5%, which is the largest five-year growth of costs since the early 1990s.

One solution I recommend is to turn off your phone while driving to avoid the temptation. This prevents you from hearing the phone ring, trying to read a text or using social media while on the road.

Beyond that, with many drivers using GPS for directions, I recommend knowing your route before you start driving or pulling over if you need to refer to your directions. If you are riding with passengers, let them help with the directions or replying to your texts.

Another solution is to educate youth on the dangers of distracted driving and the importance of putting phones away. At P&C Insurance, we visit schools to educate youth about the insurance industry as a whole, but also to stress the importance of keeping your phone away, so that these habits are instilled from the beginning, before it becomes a problem.

If I could offer one more suggestion, it would be to be mindful when you are calling or texting your friends and loved ones. With the holidays coming up, most of us will be traveling to some extent. This message could not be more important than at this time of year. If you think your loved ones might be on the road, wait to send a text or call them. You never know if you could be saving a life in doing so.

Learn more about auto and motorcycle insurance at P&C Insurance.