AUSTIN — Corporate executives, small business owners and state officials joined the Texas Department of Transportation June 17 to consider solutions for reducing driver distractions. Distracted driving crashes accounted for 17 percent of the total crash-related economic loss and cost the nation $46 billion in 2010, an average cost of $148 for every person in the U.S. Including lost quality of life, these crashes were responsible for $129 billion or 15 percent of the overall societal harm caused by motor vehicle crashes.
“With distracted driving responsible for 1 in every 5 crashes in Texas, we want to help business leaders understand what they can do to protect their employees, themselves and other motorists on the road,” said John Barton, TxDOT deputy executive director. “When employees crash on company time while using a mobile device, employers can be held liable for significant damages.”
Among the Distracted Driving Summit participants were national experts who recommended steps businesses can take to improve safety and reduce financial liability. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that employers in Texas spend $4.3 billion every year as a result of on- and off-the-job traffic crashes that can result in medical claims, absences and lost productivity. An employer’s price tag for an on-the-job crash is about $16,000 per vehicle; $76,000 per injury; and $505,000 per fatality. In recent years, numerous plaintiffs have filed and won multi-million-dollar lawsuits against employers when their employee caused injuries due to a distracted driving crash.
TxDOT Tours State with Crashed Phone
In addition to raising awareness of the cost of distracted driving within the business sector, TxDOT also is educating the public on the dangers of such habits. As part of TxDOT’s “Talk, Text, Crash” campaign, the agency is hosting events across the state featuring a car-sized, 750- pound crashed phone as the backdrop for guest speakers who will offer insight about loved ones they’ve lost due to talking and texting while driving.
Researchers at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) say drivers who use a cell phone behind the wheel are four times more likely to get into a crash serious enough to cause injury. In addition, a study by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) revealed almost half of Texas drivers have admitted using a cell phone while driving, and almost a quarter of drivers say they sometimes or regularly send or read text messages while driving. Distracted driving-related crashes in Texas are highest among young adults ages 16 to 24, followed by adults over the age of 44. Last year in Texas, 505 people were killed and 19,981 people were seriously injured in distracted driving crashes.
The Distracted Driving Summit is part of TxDOT’s “Talk, Text, Crash” campaign to warn motorists of the dangers of being distracted behind the wheel. While cell phone use is the most recognizable driving distraction, any behavior that takes a motorist’s attention away from the road is dangerous. Distractions can include:
• Checking email
• Eating and drinking
• Programming a navigation system
• Adjusting a radio, CD player or other audio device
The economic cost of motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. is the equivalent of 1.9 percent of the $14.96 trillion Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2010. Factors contributing to the price tag include productivity losses, property damage, medical and rehabilitation costs, congestion costs, legal and court costs, emergency services, insurance administration costs, and the costs to employers, among others. Overall, nearly 75 percent of these costs are paid through taxes, insurance premiums, and congestion related costs such as travel delay, excess fuel consumption, and increased environmental impacts. These costs, borne by society rather than individual crash victims, totaled over $200 billion.