Warren Buffett makes it official: Distracted Driving is hurting GEICO’s bottom line (yet insurance companies likely hold the key to solving their own problem)
In a recent WSJ interview, Warren Buffett confirmed what we’ve suspected all along…DISTRACTED DRIVING from cell phone usage is the new pain-point for auto insurance companies. The original WSJ interview is here: http://www.wsj.com/articles/car-crashes-are-on-the-rise-and-warren-buffett-blames-texting-1441800119
and a great follow-up can be found here: http://qz.com/498385/texting-while-driving-is-hurting-warren-buffett/
Noting a 14% increase in auto fatalities this year relative to just a 3% growth rate in miles driven, Warren Buffett stated that “if cars are better — and they clearly are — drivers must be worse.”
Given that mileage is up only around 3%, Mr. Buffett said he found it hard to draw any inference from the data other than distracted driving is accounting for the much larger jump in fatalities this year.
While extremely revealing, Mr. Buffett’s interview is just another piece of evidence that the distracted driving problem is getting worse all around us. For example, a recent California Office of Traffic Safety / UC Berkeley joint report showed that driver cell phone use in California has increased 39% year over year. In fact, the National Safety Council estimates that greater than one in four auto collisions in the U.S. is caused by drivers using cell phones.
Despite education, awareness, legislation and law enforcement, why does this problem just keep growing? Scientific research tells us that humans are wired to respond immediately to every stimulus, especially ones coming from their smartphones. This obviously becomes very dangerous when the stimulus occurs while driving.
So what can we do to move the needle in solving this problem? We believe that drivers need help to ignore their phones while driving, and technology solutions have proven to be an effective way to provide that assistance. Initial data supports the idea that technology solutions can reduce accidents from distracted driving:
- A recent University of Washington study suggests that technology solutions that “may help limit exposure to distraction for novice drivers are accepted by teens and lowered risky driving.”
- 98.5% of trips using LifeSaver were distraction free from their mobile device: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/technology-solutions-making-impact-distracted-163300063.html
The challenge for technology solutions is two-fold. One, not enough people know that technology solutions exist and two, drivers need some accountability to keep using the solution. Auto insurers are well positioned to meet both challenges.
- Auto insurers have the unique ability to get these technology solutions into the hands of millions of drivers. These technology solutions greatly limit distracted driving, thus reducing collision/claim frequency and improving loss ratios. For example, for an insurer with annual claims paid in the neighborhood of $300M, our solution can help reduce up to 25% of these claims, or $75M per year in claims paid. Even a 1% adoption rate means $750k/year saved in reduced claims.
- An effective solution needs to provide a means to report compliance. Using a solution like LifeSaver (http://www.lifesaver-app.com), an insurer can measure app usage and driver distraction on an individual policyholder basis, and know which of its policyholders are using the app faithfully and without distraction and can reward those policyholders.
THE SOLUTION IS WITHIN REACH: By combining scale with compliance, we believe auto insurers hold the key to solving the distracted driving epidemic. Given the amount of attention that the public and the media are focusing on this problem, any organizations that can move the needle will accrue an amazing amount of customer and public goodwill.
For auto insurers that don’t want to get caught by surprise like GEICO did, now is the perfect time to leverage a low-cost, hardware-free technology solution that will help your policyholders combat distracted driving. Moreover you’ll be providing a benefit to your community and ultimately your bottom line. Run a LifeSaver pilot with your policyholders today before the GEICO problem becomes your problem too – please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.