Distracted driving is a recognized problem, even by the very same drivers that engage in the dangerous behaviour when they’re on the roads.
According to a research report from United Fire Group Insurance (UFG) that surveyed 500 commercial and general drivers in the 33 states where the company underwrites policies, 47% of all commercial drivers say they’ve read a text while driving their commercial vehicle, even though 93% agree that this should be considered a form of distracted driving.
Those numbers don’t bode well for the auto insurance marketplace.
“Auto claims have been climbing in the industry,” said Lisa Kirchhoff, UFG’s senior writer for its distracted driving campaign. “People are crashing more than they have in nearly a decade and industry research is laying some of the blame on distracted driving.”
When the issue hit too close to home for UFG, the company launched Worth It, a comprehensive educational and awareness program that aims to remind drivers that life is ‘worth it,’ while distracted driving is not. The campaign first came to life when one of UFG’s long-time risk control representatives, Shawn O’Brien, was involved in an accident caused by a distracted driver. He then created a powerful presentation he routinely shared with his commercial clients, which became the catalyst for the rest of the campaign.
Since its launch last year, Worth It has already broadened its scope.
“We thought we might focus solely on commercial clients as that is one of our largest customer bases. We had proprietary research completed which was truly eye-opening, but as we expanded our content with stories, started working with Shawn and his story, creating downloadable presentations, etcetera, we realized we were limiting ourselves with such a defined focus,” explained Kirchhoff. “It was schools, drivers’ education programs, general consumer business and industries, and community organizations that were contacting us for information and partnership opportunities. While the commercial driver audience is important, we realized a goal of reaching all drivers was more important.”
The Worth It campaign offers marketing materials and social media toolkits to organizations hoping to spread its message, along with other resources and a pledge individuals can sign to show that they won’t be engaging in distracted driving. UFG’s regional community has been very supportive in its efforts, according to Kirchhoff, but the insurance company has now been looking at media partnership opportunities outside of its home state of Iowa.
“Our next goals are to replicate these experiences and opportunities in our four other regional office areas across the country: Westminster, Colorado; Pennington, New Jersey; Webster, Texas; and Rocklin, California,” listed Kirchhoff.
The main point that UFG is trying to get across to its commercial insureds through the campaign is that fighting distracted driving has to come from the top.
“If a company policy states drivers should not be on their phones, the company needs to amend their own policies, such as expecting workers to always be ‘on call’ and answering their phone,” explained Kirchhoff. “It’s really an industry-wide epidemic that is going to require work on all sides; it’s not simply a matter of telling your drivers not to text and drive.