Distracted Driving Law Fails: ‘No Good Solution,’ Except One…
While most states are cracking down further on distracted driving, Arkansas seems to be taking an alternate route. The Insurance Journal reports that legislators “refused to move forward with a bill that would have prohibited people from using cell phones without hands-free devices to dial a phone number, use social media or utilize a map application while driving.”
Supporters of the law showed lawmakers a dashboard video in which a state trooper was nearly avoided by a driver who was using their cell phone. However, the Arkansas House committee did not feel tougher laws were the answer as the Public Transportation Committee voted 11-7 against the bill that would have also allowed officers to pull over people suspected of using their phones while driving.
To be fair, Arkansas already bans texting while driving and some cellphone usage. Also, the bill wouldn’t have applied to law enforcement or people making emergency calls. But other drivers would have had to use a hands free device or pull their car over to legally use the phone.
According to Democratic Rep. David Fielding, the current law is “unenforceable and said roadways would be safer if drivers weren’t staring at electronic screens.” Arkansas State Police and the Arkansas Association of Chiefs of Police endorsed the new law, but Rep. Jana Della Rosa foresaw “unintended consequences.”
“There are other unintended consequences of this,” said Rosa. “I think the problem is there’s no good solution to it in general.”
While Rosa’s final comment is certainly one way of looking at it, there is a solution, and it begins and ends with the people behind the wheel.
Rosa is right that there isn’t a good legislative solution, but not every solution can be handled in a rule or regulation especially when human action is part of the equation. Reducing the likelihood of distracted driving depends on reinforcement of the dangers and insurance incentives. Both of these areas are opportunities for insurance agents because they have direct contact and rapport with their drivers.
Reinforcement of the dangers that distracted driving can cause is of the utmost importance because it keeps the issue in the public eye. It’s also important to note that distracted driving is it just texting while driving. It’s also eating, checking Facebook, talking to passengers, grooming, and using navigation systems while operating a motor vehicle. Furthermore, Distraction.gov notes, an estimated 421,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver, a nine percent increase from the estimated 387,000 people injured in 2011. And 10% of drivers of all ages under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted, and they also have the worst statistics overall when it comes to safety.
Insurance incentives are not always noticeable except for when premium renewals roll back around and rates decrease. If you have motorists with children that are old enough to drive, reminding them of the insurance benefits to accident-free driving on a regular basis can be a powerful motivator. But it is important for parents to know that their children’s likelihood of engaging in distracted driving practices directly correlates to their own driving behaviors. And while accident rates are lower among adults, distracted driving is still a frequent behavior — one they may be passing along to their kids without even realizing.
The latest development in Arkansas is a further reminder that the problem of distracted driving cannot be legislated away. The only way to solve it once and for all is for motorists to say, “Enough.” Make sure that your auto insurance leads & customers know how important this issue is before they get behind the wheel.