Distracted driving is quickly rocketing up the ranks of risks for insurers. Coming on the heels of a Chubb study last week that found motorists are in favor of banning cell phone use while driving, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) today reinforced the popular sentiment that the issue of distracted driving absolutely must be addressed on multiple fronts, including:

1. Laws

2. Enforcement

3. Public education

4. Personal responsibility

Over the past few years, a growing number states and localities have implemented or strengthened restrictions on cell phone use and texting. PCI cites research released today by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), an affiliate of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which finds that 30 states and the District of Columbia have banned texting while driving and nearly half of these bans were enacted in 2010.

However, these bans don't appear to be enough.

HDLI researchers calculated rates of collision claims for vehicles up to 9 years old during the months immediately before and after driver texting was banned in California (January 2009), Louisiana (July 2008), Minnesota (August 2008), and Washington (January 2008). Comparable data were collected in nearby states where texting laws weren't substantially changed during the time span of the study. This controlled for possible changes in collision claim rates unrelated to the bans—changes in the number of miles driven due to the economy, seasonal changes in driving patterns, etc.

"Texting bans haven't reduced crashes at all," says Adrian Lund, president of both HLDI and the IIHS. "In a perverse twist, crashes increased in three of the four states we studied after bans were enacted. It's an indication that texting bans might even increase the risk of texting for drivers who continue to do so despite the laws."

However, despite the lack of positive results, PCI lauds state lawmakers' efforts, but adds that there is still much work left to be done.

“The enactment of these laws is positive,” said Robert Passmore, senior director of personal lines for PCI. "However, it takes a coordinated strategy combining education, personal responsibility and enforcement to get results.”

PCI supports initiatives to increase the knowledge of motorists on the hazards of distracted driving and identify steps that motorists can take to prevent distractions from affecting their driving performance.

“Distracted driving is a serious problem, particularly with teens,” Passmore adds.  “But just as we have seen with other motor safety issues such as seatbelt use and drunk driving, there is no single answer to addressing the problem of distracted driving. Although cell phone use and texting grab the most attention, we encourage drivers to keep in mind that navigation systems, eating and drinking as well as grooming can all serve as distractions that compromise safe driving.  All drivers have a responsibility to exercise good judgment in all of their driving activities and cell phone use only represents one of a laundry list of distractions that can lead to a crash."

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