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Insurers going high-tech to curb distracted driving

Distracted drivers are to blame for many accidents in the Houston area, particularly accidents involving bicyclists and pedestrians. After all, pedestrians and bicyclists can be hard to spot just because of their size.

If a driver takes his or her eyes off the road for even a moment, perhaps to send a quick text message, the driver can wind up striking a pedestrian with his or her car. This can even happen if a driver is texting and driving while stopped at an intersection but fails to check for pedestrians before hitting the gas again.

Along with law enforcement efforts and public awareness campaigns, insurance companies are also taking steps to discourage distracted drivers. One of the newest initiatives involves the use of a mobile phone application as part of a program called Usage-Based Insurance.

In the program, which is voluntary, a customer downloads the app on his or her phone. The app tracks data on the motorist's driving happens, such as what time of day one is driving, how fast one is traveling and how often a driver must firmly apply the brakes as opposed to coming to a gentle stop. Good driving habits lead to discounts on insurance premiums. On the other hand, the system can warn an insurance company of a risky driver before they cause a bicycle or pedestrian accident.

While this technology is relatively new, early studies suggest that it is effective. For instance, drivers who enrolled in the program, over time, reduced the number of times they had to hard brake, that is, apply the brakes firmly, by 21 percent.

Distracted driving is a serious problem in Texas, and every serious effort to prevent it should be welcomed. However, it is ultimately a driver's responsibility to make sure that they are paying attention to the road. If they fail in this responsibility, their victims can hold them legally accountable to pay compensation.

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