CHICAGO- As Americans hit the road this Labor Day weekend to celebrate the last few days of summer, travelers need to be alert to the dangers posed by distracted and impaired drivers, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI).
“America’s roads have become increasingly dangerous as smartphone distractions, traffic congestion, impaired drivers, and other threats have contributed to a spike in the frequency and severity of auto accidents nationwide,” said Bob Passmore, assistant vice president of personal lines policy. “And summer holiday weekends historically have a high rate of accidents, which is why drivers need to be especially cautious and drive responsibly this Labor Day.”
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.
According to software developer TrueMotion, 92 percent of drivers use their smartphones while driving, and 71 percent text while driving. “Distracted driving is thought to be one of the leading causes for the alarming increases in auto accidents,” said Passmore. “Drivers aren’t just talking and texting. Increasingly, they’re 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.”
Other factors such as more miles being driven on roads needing repair, higher speed limits, and more marijuana-impaired drivers also have been cited as contributing to rising numbers of accidents.
“Raising awareness about these alarming statistics and the continued threat of distracted and drug- impaired driving can help make our roads safer for consumers.”
Simple modifications to driver behaviors can prevent auto accidents and save lives. PCI offers the following tips for safe and responsible driving.
PCI’s 8 Labor Day Driving Tips:
1. Avoid distracted driving. Don’t talk, text or use apps while driving. Put the phone down and just drive. Try to limit other distractions, such as eating or fiddling with controls, and be aware that having more passengers in the car multiplies the opportunity for distraction. Secure pets in the back of the car.
2. Designate a driver. If you plan to drink at a Labor Day celebration, designate a sober driver or arrange for a taxi or ride service.
3. Wear your seatbelt. Whether you’re taking a final summer get-away or just running errands around town, 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. Give yourself plenty of time. Plan ahead and allow extra travel time. With more people on the roads on holiday weekends, often driving in unfamiliar territory, the potential for a traffic crash increases. Plan routes in advance when traveling to new destinations and be patient.
5. Pay attention to your speed. Observe speed limits, including lower speeds in work zones. Stay focused on the road and be aware of changing traffic patterns caused by construction. Be especially cautious around construction workers. They’re often working close to the highway and at great risk.
6. Beware of crash taxes. Although crash taxes have been banned or limited in several states, many cities, counties and fire districts will charge the at-fault driver for the emergency response costs of an auto accident. Fees can range from $100 to more than $2,000, and a typical insurance policy does not cover those costs.
7. 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.
8. Update your proof of insurance. Before hitting the road, replace any expired insurance identification cards so you can provide current proof of insurance during a traffic stop.