How Prediction and Prevention Can Stem the Rising Costs of Distracted Driving

By: | May 19, 2024

Peter L. Miller, CPCU, MS, MBA, is president and chief executive officer of The Institutes Risk & Insurance Knowledge Group and a member of its Senior Management Team.

Although vehicle accident rates have declined in recent years, the consequences of these crashes are more severe and costly than ever. This troubling trend is driven by riskier driving behaviors and the increasing expense of vehicle repairs.

Risky behaviors — such as distracted driving, speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol and not wearing seat belts — all surged adversely as the pandemic began. Although some of these behaviors have stabilized, distracted driving remains significantly elevated.

The cost to repair and replace vehicles has also soared due to inflation and supply chain disruptions. As vehicles incorporate more advanced technology even “minor” repairs have become more complex and expensive.

Some key stats highlight the ongoing challenges:

  • Fatalities: The National Safety Council estimates 44,450 fatalities in U.S. motor vehicle crashes in 2023, which is 4% lower than 2022 but 13.6% higher than 2019.
  • Accidents: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 5.93 million traffic crashes in 2022, a 2.8% decrease from 2021 and a 12% reduction from 2019.
  • Insurance Impact: The net combined ratio for U.S. commercial auto insurance is projected at 110.2 in 2023, the highest since 2017, as reported by Triple-I. This is driving auto insurance premiums up by double-digits for 2024.

Technological innovations to improve safety have transformed our vehicles into computers on wheels, equipped with crash avoidance features, automatic braking systems, telematics and more. Despite these advances, driver distraction remains a critical cause of vehicle crashes; a vehicle’s safety features can only do so much if the driver’s attention is elsewhere.

A recent survey by Nationwide shows how pervasive distracted driving has become: Among commercial drivers, one in three admitted to feeling distracted while driving.

The good news is there are companies working to combat this issue. I recently spoke with Stefan Heck, CEO of Nauto, a company that is pioneering efforts to curb distracted driving in commercial auto fleets. Nauto’s real-time system sees what is happening around the vehicle, what the vehicle itself is doing, and what the driver’s doing (or, importantly, not doing).

“Nauto acts as a co-pilot for drivers in real time to look four or five seconds into the future, understand what’s going on, understand what might be risky and also understand what you’re already aware of versus not,” Heck explains.

Nauto also provides active coaching to enhance drivers’ behavior, promoting safer driving practices that not only prevent collisions but also reduce insurance losses, benefiting all parties involved.

Preventing driver distraction through cutting-edge technology and robust driver education is a promising approach that saves lives and reduces claims costs.

I hope to see stakeholders across the automotive and insurance industries collaborate to bring more solutions like these to our roads soon.

Learn more about the Nauto solution in an upcoming episode of the Predict & Prevent podcast. To be notified when the episode is live, sign up for the Predict & Prevent newsletter. &

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