Inside Insurance: The sights and sounds of driver inattention

Inside Insurance: The sights and sounds of driver inattention

October 20th, 2011 in Business Diary

You are the driver of the third car stopped at a red light. You can see that the green light for the crossing traffic has just changed to yellow and then to red.

Now your light changes to green. What? You're not moving. The driver of the first vehicle is busy texting a note to no one you know and horns go off...yours and the driver in front of you.

All too often that's the new reality. The driver holding up the parade is either sending or reading a text message, on the phone and not looking at the traffic light, eating a quick snack or looking down at a booklet on the seat beside him or her.

Red light, green light, horns honk.

I'm driving in the right lane and the vehicle in front of me quickly slows down and makes a hard right turn.

What turn signal?

Same situation except I'm in the center lane on a three-lane road and the driver in front decides to change lanes to make a quick left turn. What warning, what turn signal, and what break light?

Suddenly I am getting cranky just writing about these experiences to share with you.

Distracted driving is not only dangerous, but it has frustrating consequences. More and more frequently, the texting is done while the vehicle is in motion until it might come to a sudden stop due to the truck in front of the "texter."

Now we're flying down the interstate and Mr. Hamburger almost misses the exit ramp right up to the point where the driver rearranges the door of the vehicle that was already on the ramp.

This ride down memory lane can have really serious consequences when the distracted driver hits a pedestrian in a crosswalk, or hits a child exiting a school bus.

Auto insurers are doing what they can by scheduling teen driver safety events and placing public service announcements on radio and TV about distracted driving. Law enforcement works hard to push the same type of messages and enforcement increases where it can.

What really hurts is to see a parent of a child who died in a car crash talking to a yard full of high school seniors reminding them that distracted driving can have fatal outcomes.

I met just such a lady recently at a teen-driving event sponsored by an insurance company. She not only had a very sad story to share, but she brought the light truck that her son was driving when he lost control of the vehicle. It left the road and flipped over. He was killed in the crash. Seeing the vehicle hit home with many of the teen participants.

While she, like several other devastated parents, took her experience to the people who most need to hear what happened, it still gives me chills to see the pain in her eyes as she recounts story.

Just a few years ago a very attractive model lost her life in Atlanta when the driver of the car in which she was a passenger bent over to pick up a dropped cell phone and the vehicle crashed.

So many of us have the, "Heck, it won't happen to me" syndrome. That statement flashes through my mind whenever I pass a traffic crash where firemen are loading a victim into an ambulance and a police officer is writing the report.

It's worth thinking about. It sure can happen to me or to you either as the at-fault driver or the hapless victim.

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.