This is the final segment of our series regarding distracted driving where we will examine the costly consequences associated with the problem. As already discussed in the previous parts of this series, research data suggests distracted driving is a serious concern. In one study mentioned, it was revealed that one of four vehicle accidents involve a driver using a mobile device. A recent study by LifeSaver, however, suggests that this rate may be considerably underreported, as many agents report that closer to 60% of insurance claims actually are related to such distractions. Bill Caldwell, Executive Vice President at Horace Mann Insurance, thinks that the root problem is the plethora of smartphone applications that are now available. Other examples of distracted driving include those who are eating, making climate control adjustments, and tending to child passengers--which could be a bigger problem than cell phone use. Here, we will look at some of the financial consequences related to the problem of distracted driving.
With gas being more affordable and the economy improving, more vehicles are on the roadways; congestion has increased, and so have traffic accidents. Robert Gordon, a Vice President with Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, feels that the areas with the greatest volume of accidents are those where there is traffic congestion. He implies that the impact of distracted driving is greater when traffic congestion exists, such as in “bumper-to-bumper” traffic where movement is less predictable. One recent federally-based study estimated that the problem with distracted driving costs over $175 billion each year. Crashes generate an estimated $871 billion, which is composed of roughly $277 billion in property damage and $594 billion in other losses such as in productivity.
Rising Vehicle Repair Costs
Adam Polack of Allstate explains that today's vehicles have additional features that are generally more costly to replace. For example, damage to a bumper often now requires replacing one of the now mandated backup cameras. In efforts to reduce vehicle weight to meet increasingly stringent fuel efficiency standards, cars are constructed with lightweight materials across the exterior that are susceptible to even very minor collisions. This has led to increases in the average cost of claims. Auto insurers estimate that these costs are approximately $30 billion per year. Several major auto insurers including GEICO and Allstate have publically affirmed these costly increases.
The epidemic of distracted driving accidents is also generating tremendous legal costs. In 2015, a transportation company paid a $3.35 million settlement following an accident attributed to the driver using a mobile phone at the time. In 2010, an insurer paid $7.5 million in damages after the driver of a company car caused a significant accident based on distracted driving. Across the country, more accident cases are arising that cited driver negligence based on distracted driving, and this trend is likely to continue.
Colorado Financial Penalties
Initially, in Colorado, drivers were subject to a $50 fine for texting while operating a vehicle and were assessed one point on their driver's license for the first offense. Those found to be in violation of this law a second time were subject to a $100 fine. Many lawmakers realized, however, that these penalties were insufficient based on the potential for severe accidents and injuries. Colorado Senate Bill 27 increased the penalty for these violations to $300 and 4 points on the driving record of offenders for each offense. It is important to note that those cited for text messaging while driving must have demonstrated “careless or imprudent” operation at the time.
The Losses Are Not Only Financial
Unfortunately, the consequences of distracted driving extend beyond merely those of an economic nature, as over 600,000 individuals drive while distracted each day across the country. Data from 2016 showed 3,450 deaths and 391,000 injuries could be attributed to this problem. Current CDC research indicated that each day roughly 9 people are fatally injured. Just recently, Colorado News9 reported on the death of a bicyclist at the scene of a collision in Douglas County who was traveling in the bicycle lane. A 54-year old woman faces charges related to reckless driving. She told investigators that her mobile phone, which was connected to the vehicle's audio system, began ringing. She did not answer the call; however, as she scrambled to mute the sound, her vehicle drifted to the right and entered the bicycle lane.
The word is getting out: distracted driving is as financially costly as it is life-threatening. The problem is: each driver thinks it won't happen to him or her. But it happens, and if you are in a car accident and suspect the other driver caused it because he or she was distracted, contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.