Post-pandemic driving habits will become ‘more dangerous’ | Insurance Business America
The President of the Travelers Institute points to the need for better education and rewards for safer driving
engine & fleet
By David Saric
Road traffic has increased post-pandemic due to the return to office life and social obligations, leading to increases in distracted driving, accidents and fatalities. Across North America, using technology and driving a vehicle when stressed or lacking sleep is becoming more commonplace, contributing to less safe roads and a need for better incentives and social stigma for safer driving.
“Post-pandemic driving habits are becoming more dangerous,” said Joan Woodward, president of the Travelers Institute and vice president of public policy at Travelers. “People are navigating their cars as if the streets were empty during the lockdown, proving that unsafe driving habits are hard to break.”
During the 2023 edition of RIMS in Atlanta, Woodward spoke to Insurance Business about the key distracted driving trends insurers should be aware of, how to incentivize vigilant behavior, and the need for greater public scrutiny and education to improve road safety.
Inattentive driving behavior is widespread
Across Canada and the United States, becoming distracted while operating a vehicle is becoming a common occurrence. According to the 2023 Travelers Risk Index, a nationwide survey of distracted driving behaviors by The Travelers, 30% of Canadian participants admitted they were involved in an accident because of their own distraction, a 50% increase from 2022.
Meanwhile, 70% of American respondents believe distracted driving is a bigger problem now than it has been in years. This number is supported by a study by the National Safety Council, which found that the number of deaths from avoidable traffic accidents increased by 18% in 2022 compared to before. pandemic level.
The use of technology is a major reason for diverting a driver’s attention off the road, whether it’s operating a handheld device to text, email, take a picture, shop online, or post to social media -Updates. Fumbling with a GPS or immersed in a hands-free phone conversation are also notable distractions with dangerous consequences.
In addition to technical concerns, stress and emotional strain also affect the way drivers maneuver their vehicles. One in six Canadians said they often cry or have strong emotions while driving, with people aged 18 to 35 being 21% more likely to report these feelings. Additionally, 62% of American respondents admitted to driving while drowsy or sleep deprived.
“Recent studies have shown that driving with a few hours of sleep can have cognitive effects similar to driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol, and this is a disturbing discovery,” Woodward said.
In addition, work-related distractions are also found to be detrimental to safe driving. 44% of Americans surveyed said they respond to work emergencies on the go, while another 43% felt they must always be available to meet work commitments.
Meanwhile, just 17% of Canadians say there are official work policies that prohibit responding to work-related calls, texts or emails while commuting.
“Employers need to have stricter protocols for these types of distractions and communicate this information clearly to managers so workers at all levels of an organization can understand the importance of these safety efforts,” Woodward said.
“Similar to how companies conduct phishing tests to determine whether or not an employee poses a cyber threat to operations, we need to make sure we test our colleagues for distracted driving every now and then as part of normal training programs.”
“We need to incentivize safer driving in more meaningful ways”
As Travelers’ public policy division, the Travelers Institute aims to help educate public policymakers and regulators on pressing issues, including distracted driving.
“At the political level, distracted driving is fundamentally a bipartisan issue and should be treated as such,” Woodward said.
However, according to the survey, there is a greater demand from motorists to be rewarded for safer driving.
83 percent said they would be interested in a financial reward, while 82 percent said they wanted a car insurance discount.
For both Canadian and American respondents, if a passenger asked the driver not to use their phone, the likelihood that they would deter the distraction was 84-90%.
“We need to incentivize safer driving in more meaningful ways,” Woodward said. “We need to take those numbers into account and find proactive solutions.”
The use of technological devices that track driving patterns could motivate the development of better habits.
“Traveller’s IntelliDrive app is just a way to reward drivers who feel their vigilance should be recognized,” Woodward said. “Once people realize they can earn better rewards by changing their behavior, we can save more lives.”
Ultimately, while road safety can bring financial benefits, avoiding death or serious injury should be a top priority for every motorist.
Changing public attitudes towards distracted driving
Driving impairment is largely frowned upon in public discourse and there have been countless campaigns to eliminate this unsafe behavior.
“It’s now taken for granted that drinking, drug use and driving are shameful, and while incidents like this still occur, there is widespread condemnation,” Woodward said.
“However, we must include the issue of distracted driving in this discussion. You should never be ashamed to correct a driver when they are using their phone or raise concerns when they are overworked and sleep deprived.”
That’s why the Travelers Institute created a Distracted Driving Initiative that provides educational resources to improve road safety.
“We visited schools to talk to the younger generation and help them develop safer driving habits from the start,” Woodward said. “We also hold presentations for employers with risk manager expertise to ensure their employees don’t take their work with them on the journey.”
“We understand that everyone experiences varying degrees of distraction or stress that can affect the ability to operate a vehicle. And the more we raise awareness of how this can impact road safety and stigmatize unsafe driving habits, the better off society will be.”
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