Distracted Driving Behaviors Increased During Pandemic. Are Bosses to Blame?

March 31, 2021

One in four drivers thinks that roads are safer today than they were before the pandemic, yet a growing number of drivers are texting or emailing while driving– in part as more of them feel pressured to be available for their jobs wherever they are.

The Travelers Companies announced the results of its 2021 Travelers Risk Index on distracted driving, a national survey of more than 1,000 consumers and business managers.

Respondents reported on their dangerous driving behaviors including:

  • Texting or emailing (26%, up from 19% pre-pandemic).
  • Checking social media (20%, up from 13% pre-pandemic).
  • Taking videos and pictures (19%, up from 10% pre-pandemic).
  • Shopping online (17%, up from 8% pre-pandemic).

The insurer says such driving behaviors may have contributed in part to more hazardous roads. According to the National Safety Council, motor vehicle deaths were up 8% in 2020 from 2019 – the highest percentage increase in 13 years.

“Traffic volumes were lower during the early days of the pandemic, which may have given drivers a false sense of security,” said Chris Hayes, second vice president of Workers Compensation and Transportation, Risk Control, at Travelers.

Hayes said not only did distracted driving increase, but speeding also became more prevalent, according to data from the insurer’s telematics product IntelliDrive.

Additional findings suggest that many people may be feeling increased pressure to always be available for their jobs. This year, 48% of business managers said they expect employees to respond frequently to work-related calls, texts or emails, compared to 43% pre-pandemic.

One in four respondents said they answer work-related calls and texts while behind the wheel, citing the following reasons:

  • 46% said they think it might be an emergency.
  • 29% said their supervisor would be upset if they don’t answer.
  • 22% said they are unable to mentally shut off from work.

Yet, compared to the 2020 Travelers Risk Index results, a higher number of employers say they are concerned about liability from distracted driving. More than one-quarter (27%) indicated that they worry a great deal about their liability should an employee be involved in a crash because of distracted driving, up from 21% pre-pandemic.

The Travelers Institute is hosting a virtual event today at 1 p.m. ET to explore the psychology behind distracted driving. “The Art and Science of Behavior Change,” will convene experts in injury prevention and public health communication to discuss messaging that can encourage individuals to make safer choices.

Topics COVID-19 Personal Auto

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