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In 2021, Arrive Alive reported an average of 14 000 deaths on South African roads, making it one of the highest in the world. Besides this staggering death toll, it also estimated the economic cost of road accidents at R147 billion.

Distracted driving, a major concern

In today’s era of technology, distracted driving is now being highlighted as one of the leading causes of road accidents, with cell phone use while driving a major concern.

Anything diverting attention away from the task of safe driving can be termed a distraction, such as the sending of text messages, talking on a cell phone, using a navigation system, or changing radio stations. For businesses who have a team of drivers on the road for extended periods, fatigue will also be a factor. This may well result in unsafe driving, including harsh braking, hard cornering and speeding, and may increase the probability of an accident.

Technological advances can assist

Distracted driving will only become more of a problem as technology advances and individuals become more reliant on devices like mobile phones to stay in contact, or for directions and optimal routing through traffic congestion. Yet these technological advances can also assist in managing these distractions and providing solutions.

Technology can assist in the following ways:

Know your enemy.

Education is key - drivers need to be made aware of what is at stake. Cognitive distraction and blindness caused by inattention, slower times of reaction and drivers inadvertently swerving across lanes can lead to errors and cause accidents that are both costly to the industry and life-threatening. Gathering information on distracted driving and sharing this with your clients can help reinforce the importance of safe driving. It’s also important to educate insured businesses on the applicability of dashcams in addressing distraction, saving money through accident reduction, saving lives, and even potentially reducing premiums through lower risk resulting from safer driving practices.

Monitor the driver.

The installation of dashcams is useful to prevent distracted driving and provide insights into what is distracting drivers, such as taking unnecessary phone calls, holding the phone while driving, texting or utilising navigation technology while driving, changing music, taking risks on the road, drowsiness or simply not paying attention.

Incorporate technology.

Distracted driving solutions, including Artificial Intelligence (AI) features, can give business owners more control over employees using mobile devices behind the wheel and can be used to highlight unsafe driving practices and to combat or effectively manage driver fatigue. Telematics can yield insights into driver risk and assist in formulating incentives for better and focused driving using driver behaviour data.

Usage-based insurance models

Keeping an eye on traffic violation trends facilitates anticipation of future risks and applicable adjustment of rating factors. It has been noted, for example, that the more kilometres driven in a single road trip, the more prevalent the likelihood of distracted driving. This could be due to boredom or fatigue and is particularly relevant for business clients managing fleets. If a policyholder’s vehicle travels many kilometres in one stint by the same driver, this could easily be highlighted through telematics and AI technology, the policy flagged, and the policy premium adjusted according to the perceived increased risk.

Personalised risk profiling should be considered going forward, as it can assist in positively changing driving behaviour. Usage-based insurance models can facilitate the delivery of better insurance solutions in the long run. Insurers already overlaying behavioural data to offer a more bespoke premium and reward structure to their policyholders are prompting other low-risk policyholders in the market, who have continued to be charged premiums based on an aggregated risk pool, to consider alternatives.

Kobus Visagie

Executive of Business Solutions