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The real cost of driving while distracted

Distracted Driving Event

The CU Denver Risk Management and Insurance program and Travelers Institute partnered to hold the Disrupting Distraction Symposium to raise awareness for road safety.

Every seven seconds someone is injured in a car accident. Distracted driving is involved in about 40 crashes every day in Colorado. You are 20 times more likely to get in a crash if you are texting while driving and one in 10 people admit to driving while distracted. These facts showcase a dark trend for safety on the roads. And if safety isn’t enough, rising insurance premiums should get the attention of Colorado residents.

“There’s clearly a disconnect between drivers’ perception of what is safe and the reality of what is happening on our roads,” said Joan Woodward, Travelers Institute president. And the most disturbing fact of all is that most drivers categorize distraction as “someone else’s problem.”

Travelers Insurance selected the CU Denver Risk Management and Insurance (RMI) program as one of three university campuses nationwide to host the Travelers Institute Public Service Every Second Matters Distracted Driving symposium.

A crowd of 200 industry professionals and students attended the April 2 symposium in the Tivoli Turnhall.

Distracted Driving Event

Travelers’ initiative focuses on the need to reduce distraction-related roadway fatalities and injuries. “We created this initiative to help change perceptions about this problem so people start taking it seriously,” Woodward said.

The program for the event included:

Keynote Address: “Autonomous Vehicles: The Technology and Challenges”
Christoffer Heckman, Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science, University of Colorado at Boulder

Panel Discussion
Moderator: Jessica Kearney, Executive Director, Travelers Institute
Sam Cole, Communications Manager, Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT)
Susan Crotty, Government Affairs Special Project Manager, Road to Zero Coalition, National Safety Council
Eric Nordquist, Senior Vice President, Product Management, Personal Insurance, Travelers
Carole Walker, Executive Director, Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association

Distracted Driving Event

Scary stats on distracted driving

At the event, Travelers shared their 2018 Travelers Risk Index, which highlighted statistics on distracted driving and the perception of risk among drivers and passengers.

At first glance, the stats are pretty scary. More than 37,000 Americans died on US roads in 2016.

Consistent with previous years, an overwhelming majority of people surveyed said that distracted driving is a concern. Eighty-five percent said it is extremely risky to use smartphones or tablets while driving, yet nearly a quarter of respondents said they do it.

“Eighty-five percent said it is extremely risky to use smartphones or tablets while driving, yet nearly a quarter of respondents said they do it.”

Sixty-one percent of those who use their phones while driving do so because they worry about a possible emergency, and 23 percent do so because they’re scared of missing out on something important, even though they know their actions are distracting to driving.

Distracted Driving Event

On the other hand, 25 percent of people indicate they multitask when driving because they think they can do so safely. The bottom line shared by Susan Crotty, Government Affairs Special Project Manager for Road to Zero Coalition on the National Safety Council, is that “there is no safe way to use your phone and drive.”

The Colorado effect

Here in Colorado insurance rates have increased 12 percent in 2017, which places the state as third in the nation for rising car insurance premiums.

Colorado insurance rates have been tumultuous. Rates have doubled in the last two years nationwide and are up six percent nationally. Here in Colorado insurance rates have increased 12 percent in 2017, which places the state as third in the nation for rising car insurance premiums.

Why? It comes down to a number of factors. Colorado is:

  • the second highest in the nation for hail damage claims
  • a state with a large number of drivers under the influence of marijuana
  • seeing increased traffic on congested roadways from an influx of people
  • a state with a high level of distracted driving
  • on record for some of the lowest gas prices in the nation that are putting more people on the road
  • seeing more people driving without insurance

When polled, Coloradans know this is a big problem. 88 percent support a texting while driving ban, but legislators cannot pass a bill. “This is an election year, but politics make it tough to pass laws the majority of citizens want,” shared Carole Walker, RMIIA Executive Director.

There’s a problem. What’s the solution?

“It will take a generational effort to achieve behavioral change and positive long-term effects.” – Carole Walker, RMIIA Executive Director

We know there are issues nationwide and in the state of Colorado. But what will it take to change this trend? Walker believes, “It will take a generational effort to achieve behavioral change and positive long-term effects.”

What that looks like is taking advantage of the crowd mentality. Crotty shared, “There is power in a crowd. Positive peer pressure from passengers to drivers help prevent distracted driving.”

If you’re a passenger, it’s as simple as speaking up. For parents, it’s important to keep in mind that your children mimic you so setting a good example is even more important.

The statistics highlight that drivers age 24 through 31 are a key market to educate. Research shows that 30 percent of these drivers say texting has no impact on their driving.

As a millennial and current BSBA in Risk Management and Insurance student, David Adugna shared his thoughts, “The biggest takeaway from the event for me was how many distractions are around us when we drive, not just cell phones.”

Events like the one Travelers puts on are a great way to raise awareness. However, many people see technology as the future. “Technology got us into this mess, technology can help us get out of it,” shared Sam Cole, Communications Manager, Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT).

But unfortunately, simple tech solutions don’t always work. For example, safety features currently available on most phones are not being taken advantage of. Only 12 percent of drivers surveyed said they use safety features like “auto-reply” and “do not disturb while driving.”

Could self-driving cars be our solution?

Distracted Driving Event

Christoffer Heckman, keynote speaker and assistant professor at CU Boulder, spoke on possible solutions to this massive problem facing us. He first spoke to one of the hottest topics in this industry: autonomous vehicles.

He shared that the biggest challenge ahead for this kind of driving technology is getting that technology to understand and react to the environment around us. As it stands, autonomous vehicles aren’t there yet.

Other safety options?

Since we are still awaiting self-driving car technology to catch up, people are looking at other solutions to fix this problem. One idea is to look at the safety features of older and newer models and how to integrate this new technology.

Unfortunately, the average age of cars on the road is 11 years old. Older cars do not have the newer safety technology, such as Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, and Blind Spot Warning. It’s estimated that these three existing options alone could save 10,000 lives a year.

Distracted Driving Event

It’s estimated that these three existing options alone could save 10,000 lives a year.

Telematics is the technology of tracking information for vehicles on the move through GPS and mobile devices. CDOT has a list of apps to download that help reduce distracted driving incidents.

Heckman also discussed telematic solutions like ‘Do Not Disturb’ apps, as well as the Mojo App, which gamefies safe driving. This app incentivizes drivers for not touching their phones while driving, rewarding them with points for cash and prizes.

“The first step to changing behaviors is being aware of them,” said TrueMotion CEO Ted Gramer. “Awareness programs like Every Second Matters and digital programs designed to reward safe driving, powered by smartphone telematics platforms like TrueMotion, are critically important, as they take a proactive approach to curbing this deadly epidemic.”

Students connected to risk industry professionals

Prior to the symposium, Travelers hosted an exclusive networking reception for RMI students to meet with Travelers Young Professionals and recruiters to network and discuss internship and career opportunities. RMI alumni Monica Hanulik and Michael Wilson attended and represented as Travelers Young Professionals executives.

Distracted Driving Event

The CU Denver Gamma Iota Sigma (GIS) Beta Mu chapter officers organized a group of current RMI and GIS students to participate in the networking event.

David Adugna, president of GIS Beta Mu, is taking his experience with Travelers a step further through another unique opportunity provided by the RMI program. “I made amazing connecting at the event with alumni, professors, and business leaders and I am doing a Shadow Day at Travelers next week,” shared Adugna. At Shadow Day, he will interact with executives and learn more what it’s like to work in the company on a day-to-day basis.

Risk management and insurance in need of talent

In the aftermath of recent financial and natural crises, the difference between success and failure for a company increasingly depends on a firm’s ability to effectively manage risk to enhance firm value. That’s why the CU Denver Risk Management and Insurance program was born.

Distracted Driving Event

Because of a rapidly shrinking workforce in the industry, the industry connected with CU Denver to build a program that can successfully develop new talent for the industry. With a 100 percent placement rate, the RMI program gives graduates opportunities like this Travelers event to network and ultimately find jobs.

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