Travelers Institute & Chan School Explore New Approaches to Reduce Distracted Driving

The Travelers Institute, the public policy division of The Travelers Companies, Inc. co-hosted a symposium with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston to explore new approaches to reducing distracted driving-related crashes.

A growing body of research shows the dangers of distracted driving. According to data published this month by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 10 percent of fatal crashes in 2016 involved distracted drivers — resulting in an average of more than nine fatalities per day.

Drivers continue to use electronic devices behind the wheel despite widespread recognition of the danger it creates. In the 2018 Travelers Risk Index, 85 percent of people surveyed said it is extremely risky to use smartphones or tablets while driving, yet 40 percent of all respondents said they talk on the phone or look at their GPS device while driving. Further, only 12 percent of respondents use safety features such as “auto-reply” and “do not disturb” to avoid distractions.

“Distracted driving puts drivers, passengers, cyclists and pedestrians needlessly at risk every day,” said Joan Woodward, President of the Travelers Institute and Executive Vice President of Public Policy at Travelers. “We look forward to advancing the important conversation about how we can all work together to positively change driving behavior and help create safer roadways.”

Harvard Chan’s Center for Health Communication, which previously spearheaded the U.S. Designated Driver campaign to mitigate alcohol-related motor vehicle fatalities, is currently developing a national media initiative to change social norms around distracted driving. The symposium will contribute to the campaign’s development.

“In contrast to drunk driving, there is no social stigma associated with distracted driving,” said Dr. Jay Winsten, Associate Dean for Health Communication and the Harvard Center’s Founding Director. “We are working to test new ideas to promote the social unacceptability of driving while distracted.”

In addition to raising awareness, the symposium examined new insights derived from a growing understanding of the science of the distracted brain, as well as potential tactics to change driving behavior. The keynote speaker, Dr. Bryan Reimer, a research scientist at the MIT AgeLab and the Associate Director for the New England University Transportation Center, discussed the changing dynamics of driver distraction. The event will also featured a panel discussion moderated by Woodward, who will be joined by Reimer, Winsten and Rafi Finegold, Vice President, Product & Experience, TrueMotion.

The event was be held in collaboration with the National Safety Council, the Road to Zero Coalition and MassBike, as part of the Travelers Institute’s Every Second Matters℠ symposium series.

Visit the Travelers Institute website for more information about the event and the company’s Every Second Matters campaign.