Workers Comp and Phone Distraction

Cell Phone Distraction Avoidance Technology is a Natural Fit for Workers Comp

From a workers compensation point of view, the most dangerous place for workers to be is in their commercial vehicle. A significant percentage of workers comp claims are related to auto accidents. While 5% of all workers comp claims are over $500k, 28% of those $500k workers comp claims were related to motor vehicle accidents. A motor vehicle accident claim is 12 times more likely to result in a fatality than a non-motor vehicle accident claim. The frequency and severity of workers comp claims are skewed strongly toward vehicle accidents.  

The National Safety Council has stated that a minimum of 27% of crashes involve drivers talking and texting (and even this number is seriously under reported). There is a clear correlation between the increasing popularity and use of smartphones and the growing trend of vehicle accidents. 

To lower auto-related workers comp claims, forward-thinking insurers need to incentivize insured fleets to deploy technologies that assist in the lowering of vehicle accidents. Cell phone distraction is a particularly logical initiative since it can be inexpensive, require no additional hardware (just an app on the driver phone), and be largely “self correcting” in that positive results are not contingent on the fleet providing coaching and guidance to the driver based on identified risk.

One of the most common causes of accidents is simply driver distraction; namely, the driver being focused up something other than the road ahead. One of the worst behaviors is clearly cell phone distraction. The problem is getting worse (because of our addiction to cell phone interaction). In addition, plaintiff attorneys are getting extremely aggressive in terms of the identification of cell phone distractions related to any accident. While states all have regulations regarding cell phone usage in vehicles, the problem is still monumental, the effect often tragic. 

Cell phone distraction technology can mitigate the risk associated with cell phone usage while still allowing necessary use in the vehicle—voice (hands free), navigation apps, emergency use, podcasts for long drives, etc. Cell phone distraction technology results are not contingent upon the fleet to provide corrective feedback/coaching to drivers to remedy identified examples of risky behavior. The phone app will interact with the driver real time, notifying the driver of the issue and/or even blocking the undesired behavior. 

With the very low financial requirement to provide this type of risk mitigation, the self-correcting nature of the technology, and the lack of required additional hardware, this solution is naturally attractive to insurers potentially seeking to deploy this solution in the large. 

With the industry touting the huge negative financial impact of cell phone distraction combined with the low cost of a viable/proven solution, the ROI is typically ridiculously positive. If you had a 500 vehicle fleet, what do you think the odds are that one of them would have a cell phone distraction-caused accident in the next 12 months? (The “fingerprint” of the typical distracted driving accident is an at-fault collision with the vehicle in front of you). 

The settlement cost of that one accident would probably pay for the entire deployment over the 500 vehicle fleet, perhaps several times over. Especially with plaintiff attorneys becoming so aggressive around the cell phone distraction issue, the mitigation of cell phone distraction is a no brainer and becoming a “must-have” requirement for today’s commercial fleet. Being found at fault for contributing to an accident through the driver being distracted by cell phone usage is definitely a situation to be avoided.

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About Alan Mann

Driver risk scoring/coaching/cell phone distraction avoidance/driver behavior expert.
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