Back-to-school weeks bring added distractions, congestion to already dangerous roads

CHICAGO- August and September are busy times on the roads as Americans wrap up summer vacations and students head back to school. Auto accidents are on the rise across the nation, and distracted drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists are major contributors to roads becoming increasingly dangerous, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI).

“Smartphone distractions are all around us—from the driver, to the pedestrian, to the bicyclist,” said Bob Passmore, PCI’s assistant vice president of personal lines policy. “Our roads have become increasingly more dangerous. Auto accidents have increased 14 percent over the past two years—the biggest increase in over half a century, according to the National Safety Council. Last year, 4.6 million people were significantly injured on the roads, a 31 percent increase over the last seven years and a 12.2 percent increase since 2014.

“Distracted driving is thought to be one of the leading causes for the rise in vehicle accidents nationwide, especially when combined with higher traffic congestion,” said Passmore. The back-to-school weeks are sure to bring more distractions and more drivers—a deadly combination.”

According to software developer TrueMotion, 92 percent of drivers use their smartphones while driving, and 71 percent text while driving. “Drivers aren’t just talking and texting, either,” said Passmore. “Increasingly, drivers are surfing the web, engaging on social media and using apps. Amazingly, Netflix and YouTube have appeared in the list of top 10 apps used by drivers.”

Teenagers are especially vulnerable to accidents caused by smartphone distractions. According to research by Safe Kids Worldwide, one in five teens admit they cross streets while distracted by a mobile device. A recent AAA study also found that the 15-to 19-year old demographic has the largest proportion of distracted drivers. Teens are distracted nearly a quarter of the time they’re behind the wheel and they are four times more likely than adults to get into crashes while using their cell phone.

PCI’s Back-to-School Driving Safety Tips:

  1. Avoid distracted driving. Put your smartphone away before you start driving. Don’t talk, text or use apps while driving. Limit other distractions too, such as eating, fiddling with controls or talking to passengers. Parents set a powerful example.
  2. Observe speed limits. According to AAA, speeding is a factor in nearly 30 percent of fatal crashes involving teen drivers. Pay close attention to your speed, and be especially cautious in construction work zones.
  3. Buckle up. Whether you’re out for a longer drive or staying close to home, buckle up and drive safely. Seat belts save lives and help prevent injuries. Also, make sure kids are in the proper car or booster seats.
  4. Be aware. Know what’s going on around you when you’re driving. Activity on the roads and sidewalks increases at this time of year. Be prepared for pedestrians and bicyclists that may dart in front of you. 
  5. Plan ahead and allow extra travel time. With more people on the roads, often driving in unfamiliar territory, the potential for a traffic crash increases. Plan routes in advance when traveling to new destinations and be patient.
  6. Have a plan for roadside assistance. If you’re involved in an accident, beware of unscrupulous towing companies. Some towing companies take advantage of drivers after an accident by charging excessive fees and making it difficult for people to retrieve their cars. Have the phone number for your insurer or a roadside assistance program ready.
  7. Update your proof of insurance. Replace any expired insurance identification cards so you can provide current proof of insurance during a traffic stop.

About Us

PCI promotes and protects the viability of a competitive private insurance market for the benefit of consumers and insurers. PCI is composed of nearly 1,000 member companies, representing the broadest cross section of insurers of any national trade association. PCI members write more than $183 billion in annual premium, 35 percent of the nation's property casualty insurance. Member companies write 42 percent of the U.S. automobile insurance market, 27 percent of the homeowners market, 32 percent of the commercial property and liability market and 34 percent of the private workers compensation market.

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Quick facts

According to AAA, speeding is a factor in nearly 30 percent of fatal crashes involving teen drivers.
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Auto accidents have increased 14 percent over the past two years—the biggest increase in over half a century, according to the National Safety Council.
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According to software developer TrueMotion, 92 percent of drivers use their smartphones while driving, and 71 percent text while driving.
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