Technology accelerates driver distractions

Operating a motor vehicle is an essential part of our daily activities. But anything distracting a driver's attention—phones, food, friends, or control dials— becomes deadly. It takes focus, practice, and skill to safely operate a vehicle moving 80 feet per second at 55 mph.

"Approximately 3,500 people in the U.S. are killed each year in fatal accidents involving at least one distracted driver," said Commissioner Ted Nickel. "Younger drivers and passengers face the highest risk because they're more likely to be using smartphones."

Motor vehicle accident fatalities increased over 15% from 2015 through 2016, marking the first increase for two consecutive years in the U.S. since 1995.

Consequently, auto insurance premiums also increased. Rates from 2015 were more than 12% higher than in 2007, when the iPhone was launched and the smartphone boom began. Experts point to distracted drivers as the cause of more frequent, more expensive accidents, resulting in higher insurance premiums.

"Smart" cars may also be contributing to driver distraction. Today's advanced vehicles come with an array of electronic safety features, increasing the number of knobs, touchscreens, camera views, warning signals, and navigation devices.

"Innovation and technology have added an amazing amount of comfort and safety features to the driving experience," continued Commissioner Nickel. "This trend is here to stay and will continue. However, drivers have to take the time to learn how to maneuver these supercomputers on wheels before they hit the road. Otherwise, these new safety features become another dangerous distraction."

Follow these safety guidelines BEFORE you drive:

Start Sober.

Never get behind the wheel impaired—whether it's due to exhaustion, medicine, alcohol, or recreational drugs. While not the epidemic it once was, alcohol and drug-impaired drivers still cause more than 10,000 deaths per year in the U.S.

Plan your route.

Set your navigation technology and don't touch it again until you've reached your destination.

Pick your tunes.

Set your playlist, podcast, or station at a volume that allows you to focus on driving.

Put away your phone, food, and make-up.

Put away anything that might tempt you to take your hands off the wheel.

Use the "Do Not Disturb" smartphone feature.

If you purchased an iPhone in 2017 or sooner, enable the "Do Not Disturb While Driving" safety feature. Android and other mobile devices offer similar features through downloads and apps.

Follow these safety guidelines WHILE you drive:

Involve your passengers.

Ask them to help you stay focused on everybody's safety.

Passengers, especially teens, speak up!

If the driver gets distracted or drives unsafely, tell them. Your life is in their hands.

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