COLUMBUS, Ohio – It’s not uncommon for American drivers to witness close calls, erratic driving and even deadly crashes caused by motorists trying to operate a vehicle while looking down with a mobile device in their hand.
Nationwide Insurance CEO Kirt Walker today announced that his company is advocating for state lawmakers across the country to enact hands-free legislation allowing drivers to only use hands-free mobile phone technology while operating a motor vehicle. The intent is to curb crashes caused by drivers distracted by their mobile devices.
“The National Safety Council tells us that 1 in 4 crashes are due to mobile phone usage while driving. With a recent average of 37,000 deaths per year on our roadways, countless lives could have been saved and many more serious, life-changing injuries prevented if drivers’ attitudes were changed about driving while holding a mobile device,” said Walker. “We feel a moral imperative to create a mindset where distracted driving is viewed just as culturally unacceptable and undesirable as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.”
Nationwide has been actively involved nationally and at the state level to advocate for safer roadways. Currently, only 21 states including Georgia, Arizona, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia have such laws on the books. Nationwide strongly supports the recent announcement by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine to strengthen Ohio’s distracted driving laws as developed by a statewide Distracted Driving Task Force.
“A hands-free approach is practical and proving to be effective in reducing traffic crashes, injuries, and fatalities,” said Nationwide Chief Legal Officer Mark Howard. “The Ohio Distracted Driving Task Force reviewed data provided by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for states that implemented hands-free legislation and concluded that they experienced an average 15.3% decrease in fatality rates within two years after their laws were enacted. We believe so strongly in hands-free legislation that we are also urging the National Council of Insurance Legislators (NCOIL) to draft model legislation that other states can use for implementation across the country.”
Howard says the company supports model legislation that enables law enforcement to ticket drivers who are holding a mobile device while operating a motor vehicle, including texting, viewing videos or images, entering data, talking or broadcasting content. The company also believes it is reasonable to make exceptions for emergencies, for voice-activated technology like Alexa or Siri, for navigation and for “single swipe” activation as long as the device is not held by the driver.
Nationwide has long been an advocate of preventing distracted driving and ensuring roadway safety. It was one of the first companies to offer a discount for seatbelts in the 1960’s. Its popular “Prom Promise” campaign in the 1980’s and 1990’s was also instrumental in educating teens about the dangers of drunk driving.
“As a company committed to protecting people, businesses and futures with extraordinary care, there is no more important work that aligns with our values and the responsibility we have to our members and each other,” Walker added. “We’re looking forward to working with officials across the country to raise awareness and to advocate for this change to keep all eyes on the road and both hands on the wheel.”