- Where Insurance & Technology Meet

Technology Addiction: A Fatal Distraction

You are more likely to be reading this on a mobile device than on a laptop or desktop. A June 2017 Pew survey revealed that 77% of Americans own a smartphone and 85% of U.S. adults get their news on a mobile device at least some of the time. And therein lies the source of a problem: We are technology addicts!

Let me be clear – I am not a Luddite!

I am an eager early adopter and user of gadgets and technology. I am, however, concerned about our addiction to smartphones and the dangerous distractions they create. We are quickly becoming permanently distracted by technology – and what may be even more disconcerting is that we know it and most of us are doing nothing to stop it. We habitually check our smartphones hundreds of times a day, from the moment we awake until bedtime.

We know we shouldn’t, but…

Of the many distractions that permeate our lives, distracted driving is especially dangerous and is now a national safety crisis. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 10 % of fatal crashes, 15 % of injury crashes and 14 % of all police-reported motor vehicle traffic crashes were attributed to distracted driving. In spite of the many recent driver assistance and accident avoidance features in newer vehicles, auto accidents have increased 14 % over the past two years — the biggest increase in more than 50 years!

Distracted driving — and the ubiquitous use of smartphones behind the wheel — is one of the leading causes of this deadly trend. Too many people are texting, talking, surfing the web, and using social media and apps on their smartphones while driving.

And new sources of distraction appear almost daily and are adopted without hesitation. For example, a new in-car app from General Motors called Marketplace will let drivers order coffee and browse deals while behind the wheel.

Adding to this, legalized recreational marijuana is spreading across North America. There is no reason to expect this latest contributor to distracted driving will do anything but continue to grow.

We aren’t just driving … we are Driven!?

We all struggle with our work/life balance and suffer from scattered demands on our attention. A recent survey showed that 43 % of drivers are in touch with work either by talking; texting or emailing because they feel the need to be available at all hours or don’t want to upset the boss. We strive to be more productive but mobile technology is not only failing to help us accomplish that, it is actually making it worse. Bluntly, smartphones are making people stupid!

There are solutions coming….

There are many solutions to distracted driving and we should actively embrace, promote and adopt them.

  • telematics service providers are partnering with auto insurance companies to offer distracted driving prevention solutions on mobile apps.
  • smartphone manufacturers are beginning to build in safeguards; Apple’s latest mobile operating system features a long overdue “Do Not Disturb While Driving”
  • the adoption of digital voice assistants is rising (although they do not completely eliminate distractions while driving)
  • legislation against distracted driving is extensive (but adherence and enforcement varies widely and we should continue to support it and ensure that penalties are severe and enforcement efforts are strict).
  • there is also our own self-control and plain common sense; some Silicon Valley tech leaders are predicting the trend of “smartphone fasting” will spread

But just think ,,,

Technology also promises us self-driving cars in the near future – at which time we can use our smartphones as much as we want while in transit.

That resolves distracted driving, but the larger issue of technology distraction from family, friends and our daily lives remains to be addressed. Do we simply want to keep our addiction?



Editor’s Note:  Stephen Applebaum is Managing Partner, Insurance Solutions Group.  Stephen is a P&C insurance technology and claims ecosytem strategic consultant, analyst, advisor, serial entrepreneur and seasoned corporate executive.  He is a results-charged, 20+year career that reflects consistent achievements in starting, building, growing and improving the profitability, performance and value of businesses.

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