The Dangerous Distracted Driving Trend Is Impacting the Insurance Industry

// December 5, 2019
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Distracted driving claimed the lives of 3,166 drivers in 2017 alone, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This number continues to grow, with approximately 9 people being killed each day in the U.S. due to a distracted driver. Anything that takes your attention away from driving can be a distraction that can endanger you and others: sending a text message, talking on a cell phone, using a navigation system, eating, talking to passengers and more.

Texting while driving has quickly become one of the most common ways drivers get distracted. According to, 58% of high school seniors and 43% of high school juniors said they’ve emailed or texted while driving; however, they’re not the only age group to blame — teen drivers are more likely to engage in distracted driving behaviors if they have parents who do so.

People who’ve texted while driving had reaction times that were 37.4% slower than when not distracted. (When drinking and driving, for comparison, this number is 12.5%.) This is because texting while driving combines all three types of distractions: visual, manual and cognitive. When reading or sending a text message, the average driver takes their eyes off the road for about five seconds, long enough to cover the length of a football field while driving at 55 mph.

However, distracted driving is not just using your cell phone while driving. According to Erie Insurance in a 2013 Insurance Journal article, the number one cause of fatal distracted driving accidents is drivers who are “generally distracted” or “lost in thought,” representing 62% of distracted drivers in all fatal accidents. Cell phone use comes in second, responsible for 12% of fatal car crashes. Other causes include:

  • Outside person, object or event: 7%
  • Other occupants: 7%
  • Using or reaching for a device: 2%
  • Eating or drinking: 2%
  • Adjusting audio or climate controls: 2%

This distracted driving trend is impacting the insurance industry. Personal Umbrella policies, for example, used to only be for the “rich” or “targets” in society. Now umbrella layers are being pierced through more quickly and more often due to larger auto claims. Just about every household today should consider Personal Umbrella insurance to protect their assets.

Consider this Personal Umbrella claim example:
A 17-year-old was driving when, seven minutes after sunset, she struck and killed three pedestrians. The three pedestrians were crossing a two-lane road from the insured’s left to right in an area without a crosswalk. The investigation noted that there was a potential phone distraction.

Pedestrians can also be distracted by cell phone usage, wearing headphones while walking and, many times, walking directly into the path of an oncoming vehicle that has a green light. The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) projected over 6,000 pedestrians were killed in motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. in 2018. According to Injury Facts, in 2017, more than 16% of all traffic deaths were pedestrians. Every age group is vulnerable, though 10- to 14-year-olds and 50- to 69-year-olds have 20% or more pedestrian deaths as a percentage of all traffic fatalities.

Regardless of how old your insureds are or which state you live in, let’s all be part of the conversation to increase awareness about distracted driving. As an insurance professional, you can recommend safe-driving tips like avoiding cell phone usage or using hands-free devices, avoiding eating while driving, limiting the number of passengers in your car, and having the proper insurance coverage in place.

USLI’s Personal Umbrella (PCL) and Excess Umbrella (XUL) policies can help your clients have peace of mind knowing they are properly covered in the event of a large auto claim. For more information about Personal Umbrella or Excess Umbrella eligibility or requirements, or to get a quote today, contact your USLI Personal Lines underwriter.


As always, thank you for your support and business.

Contact Meghan Koehler
Underwriter – Renewal | 888-523-5545, ext. 2736

Written by Lisa Spitko
December 5, 2019