Heads Up: End of Summer Brings Auto Thefts, Congestion, Distracted Driving
CHICAGO—As Americans hit the roads to celebrate the last few days of summer, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) warns travelers to be aware of increasingly common road threats this Labor Day weekend.
Auto theft, traffic congestion and distracted driving are a few of the dangers awaiting motorists this Labor Day weekend, which potentially can lead to higher car insurance costs. Labor Day weekend has a history of being a busy day for car thieves. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) in 2014, 2,200 vehicles were stolen on Labor Day.
Busy holiday weekends also have higher rates of auto accidents, which already have been trending higher in frequency and severity over the last two years. In fact, new data released this week from the National Safety Council shows U.S. traffic deaths are up 9 percent higher through the first six, months of 2016 than 2015.
“Distracted driving is thought to be one of the leading causes for the rise in vehicle accidents nationwide,” said Bob Passmore, PCI’s assistant vice president of personal lines policy. “Whether it’s making a quick call, firing off a text, or adjusting the navigation system—in that short lapse of focus, all too often drivers can cause or fail to avoid a crash. And our increasingly congested roads compound the problem.”
The increase in accidents comes at a time when the costs associated with accidents also are rising. New cars are equipped with advanced computers, which are more expensive to repair due to more advanced diagnostic tools, specialized training by technicians, increasing labor costs and repair parts. Medical care costs also are skyrocketing. Since 2005, insurance claim costs for bodily injuries have increased by 40 percent nationally, higher than the increase in the Consumer Price Index for medical care.
“While safety is always the first concern, these trends also could be hitting consumers’ pocketbooks by putting upward pressure on insurance costs,” said Passmore. “The increase in the number of severe accidents is not good for insurance consumers. Up until the past few years, the increase in claims costs was offset by a decline in the number of claims filed, which helped keep insurance costs stable for consumers. However, these new trends are now combining to place enhanced pressure on costs that could lead to increased impacts on consumers.”
There are a number of ways that motorists, policymakers, insurers, and car makers can work together to make roads safer and keep insurance costs stable. The keys are addressing the unsafe activities that cause crashes and supporting innovative technologies that protect drivers. Distracted and aggressive driving laws need to be implemented and enforced. Impaired driving laws also need to be evaluated, and the effect of legalizing marijuana on driving safety needs to be examined. Simple modifications to driver behavior also can have a big impact, which is why PCI is working to educate consumers about accident trends and safe driving habits.
“Raising awareness about these alarming statistics and the continued threat of distracted driving can help make our roads safer and keep costs down for consumers,” said Passmore. “This Labor Day we all need to park in well-lit areas, lock our doors, put down our phones and stay focused on the road.”