With the start of national Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April, the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance (TDCI) urges Tennessee drivers to “Put It In Park” and commit to safer driving habits by putting away their smart phones, cellular devices, and any distraction that could take a driver’s attention away from the road.
While the use of technology behind the wheel is an increasingly common cause of distracted driving incidents across the country and Tennessee, distracted driving can be created by anything that diverts a driver’s attention away from the road and the inherently dangerous task of driving.
“Drivers face distractions beyond texting on a smart phone,” said TDCI Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak. “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.”
In addition to the tragic loss of life caused by distracted driving, distracted driving is contributing to the rise in auto insurance premiums. 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 during 2010-2013 was 17.82 percent. But the cumulative average climbed to 24.44 percent from 2014-2017 which is likely attributable to the rise of distracted driving and drivers increased usage of technology.
As a reminder to drivers, the department is sharing the following tips that drivers should always remember before getting behind the wheel.
- Start sober. Don’t get behind the wheel while impaired — whether it’s due to exhaustion, medicine, alcohol or recreational drugs. Drunk/impaired drivers are responsible for approximately 10,000 fatalities a year.
- When you’re behind the wheel of a vehicle, don’t use your phone. That means no texts, no social media, no videos, no photos or anything – except driving.
- 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 your driving.
- Parents, be a good example to your children. Put your phones away.
- 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.