Inside Insurance: I can't do what with my cell phone?

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It is funny how the same subject keeps coming up, but in a slightly different context. In this column I discuss distracted driving because it is very dangerous to all concerned.

Now, the focus has shifted to the federal government supporting the elimination of cell phone use in vehicles, except when drivers are stopped or in an emergency situation.

Talk about stirring up a hornet’s nest. The blog­osphere and letters to newspapers have been circling like a tornado, and, as usual, there are strong feelings on both sides.

From the perspective of an average driver – let’s say me – we are back to the much bigger issue of all manner of distracted driving. Here are just some of the most common offenses.

• The driver and passengers are in conversations.

• The driver switches radio stations or CDs.

• The driver watches a GPS device to find a location even when there is audio available.

• The driver attends to personal grooming: make-up, hair, nail polish.

• The driver keeps an eye on a pet in the vehicle.

• The driver drops something on floor of the vehicle and attempts to pick it up.

• Couples get involved in a knockdown, drag-out argument while driving.

• Of course, we won’t forget talking on a cell phone or texting while driving.

From this average driver’s standpoint, there are so many distractions that singling out cell phone use is likely to create major conflict.

Certainly, some local governments have passed ordinances to prohibit their use by a driver, but a total ban might take some doing.

Better in the short term, drivers must come to the realization that as boring as it sounds, driving a motor vehicle is a full-time job.

What happens when it isn’t?

Drivers doze off and crash, or a driver bends over to pick up a dropped item and winds up in a deadly crash. Sure, it’s possible to drive, eat a sandwich and change radio stations all at the same time, but as the comedian Joan Rivers said for years, “Grow up!”

When we drive alone, there’s no one to count on for friendly advice like, “Pay attention to the road!”

When there are others in the vehicle they can be a big part of the problem instead of the solution.

Overall, I have no special claim on being the perfect driver, because I have to acknowledge fault in a few of the aforementioned bullet points. Having fewer traffic crashes would benefit motorists financially, other victims of a crash from an injury standpoint, and insurers and their policyholders.

It’s not just someone else’s problem. We all have a stake in this one, so for this average driver, I’ve got work to do, or perhaps a few less things to do when I drive. Let’s all be much more careful out there.

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


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