published Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Inside Insurance: “Let’s be careful out there!”

David Colmans

It happened to me just a few days ago when the lights were out for three intersections leading to I-75 in Marietta. This could have been a learning moment for the driver in the SUV that almost cleaned my clock, but Mr. Oblivion apparently didn’t have a clue. The good news is now that my heart rate is below 150 we can make this a good learning moment.

Drivers are required to learn the rules of the road to get their license, and insurers also expect their policyholders to follow the rules of the road. Unfortunately, in these days of numerous distractions a driver’s attention may not be all there when it needs to be.

Here’s what happened and why it is so disturbing. First, the rule that should have been followed is that when traffic lights are not working, one should treat the intersection as a four-way stop. That is exactly what did not happen at each of the three intersections over and over again.

It appeared that the driver of the other vehicle never realized that the lights were out. That begs the question: With the lights out, did the driver not know the rule, or was he simply not aware since he never appeared to slow down?

In the SUV there was the driver and a passenger. If I got there first, this column would not have been written. If the other vehicle was there first, the passenger would have had serious injuries or worse.

Much of Georgia and the surrounding states have experienced severe weather this summer and power outages are more common. This is one rule that should be top of mind, and your and my life could depend on it.

There is another aspect to this situation that should not be overlooked. Let us look at the distraction issue that continues to create dangers on virtually all roads.

In a vehicle there are numerous opportunities to lose focus on the task at hand. Technology comes at us from broadcast and satellite radios, music on smart phones and CDs. Built-in and attached GPS systems create something else to take our eyes off the road. Then there are the smart phones so many of us have to make and receive calls or text messages.

That’s a problem that continues to get worse. Just the other day New York state law enforcement reported that in the last year, more than 20,000 tickets were issued for texting while driving. We hear some police agencies say that it is hard to make a case even if there is a law prohibiting texting while driving. That may be, but one has to ask how so many tickets are written in one state and so few in others.

When there are passengers in a vehicle, the conversation distraction can be a serious problem. Even a conversation with myself can be dangerous. If I’m trying to problem-solve, plan an upcoming event, think about future meetings, or a dozen other issues, I’m not paying attention to my driving.

Let’s not overlook the electronic billboard, the people in costumes with signs waving at passing motorists or the trucks with billboards or vehicles with advertising on them making the vehicle a rolling billboard.

These are just a few of the driver distractions that must be avoided. This is where drivers must work together to insure each other’s safety.

David Colmans is the executive director of the Georgia Insurance Information Service. Contact him at 770-565-3806 or by email at dcolmans@giis.org.

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