Road risk perception altered amid the pandemic: Travelers

Chris Hayes, Second Vice President of Workers Compensation and Transportation Risk Control at Travelers, joins Yahoo Finance’s Alexis Christoforous and Kristin Myers to reveal data from the 2021 Risk Index on distracted driving.

Video Transcript

KRISTIN MYERS: Let's talk now about the 2021 travelers risk index, which highlights some surprising and alarming findings on distracted driving. I want to dive into the results now with Chris Hayes, Second Vice President of Workers Compensation and Transportation Risk Control at Travelers. So Chris, I know that less people are on the roads now, at least when I've been Ubering there have been. How has the pandemic really changed people's driving habits for either the good or even the worse?

CHRIS HAYES: Well, thanks for having me. It's been an odd story, looking at driving during the pandemic. It seems to be that when the pandemic started, we had quarantines, we had people who were traveling less, we had job changes, people like me, working from their living rooms. And the perception was, traffic is less. And unfortunately, it looks like during that time, people felt it was OK to maybe speed a little bit more, drive a little more distracted, do things that were a little more risky on the roadways.

And unfortunately, anyone who's been to the roads has seen that traffic is, in fact, not substantially lighter than it used to be, that, in fact, traffic has increased to almost to the point where it was before the pandemic. But unfortunately, those bad driving habits seemed to have lingered. So we found in our survey that some of the really poor habits like texting while driving, shopping while driving, taking videos and pictures while driving have, in fact, increased substantially over the last year. And unfortunately, this has had a significant effect on roadway safety.

So while there is a perception that roads are actually safer than they had been before the pandemic, because this perception of less traffic, and in fact, we had the largest increase in motor vehicle fatalities in the last 13 years.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: You know, it's amazing how people think they're doing OK, right, Chris? I mean, you've got about a third of respondents here thinking they're driving has improved since the pandemic, yet texting and taking video and shopping, as you said, online while driving is actually up. I'm curious who you spoke to for this survey. How big a pool was this, and what was the age range of the people that you questioned?

CHRIS HAYES: We did two polls for this or two surveys for this. One was for over 1,000 business owners, and one was for over 1,000 consumers, so a wide range of ages. So we had a pretty good demographic of people in both categories, and it showed that on one hand, the individual driver felt that the roadways were safer, and they were more free to do some unsafe activities.

At the same time, we found the business owners are increasingly aware that this is a concern for their employees, for their drivers, and keeping in mind that this is not just an issue of a liability issue for a company, but the largest source of workplace injuries and large workplace fatalities is actually driving. So this comes in play for workers compensation, auto liability, any concerns over workplace safety. It's a matter of helping to manage your own employees as they're driving and also make them aware of the risk around them while they're driving.

KRISTIN MYERS: So Chris, I know you said that the age ranges really runs the gamut, but are you seeing any kind of statistics around one age group, in particular? Because when I see some of those driving distractions, I think of them as usually ones that are associated with folks that are a little bit younger, perhaps Millennials texting and driving. But are you seeing, perhaps, that older folks are doing these behaviors just as much as some of the younger drivers?

CHRIS HAYES: That's a great question, and one advantage of having done this survey a number of times over the years is we haven't been able to dive into some of those questions. And one of the things we found is that the perception, again, is that driving while texting, driving distracted is a thing that younger drivers do. But in fact, it's mostly the older drivers, so drivers in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, who don't perceive the risk and are still texting, using their phone, answering emails.

In fact, one of the key things that came out of this look, when we put both the business and personal needs together is that as people were, again, in working environments like I am right now, you have people who are a little more mobile during the course of the day, yet feel compelled to still be able to check in with their manager. So if you've ever been on a phone call and heard someone say, I'm driving to drop my kids off at school, I'm driving to take my kids to a swim practice. Now, these are things that I've, unfortunately heard talking over the last year.

So the idea that we are working remotely, yet still connected does, unfortunately, lend itself to what you're seeing on the screen, as people driving while engaging in calls, emails, and things like that.

KRISTIN MYERS: All right. Well, I think the message is pretty clear, when you are driving, just put your phone down. Wait until you reach your destination. Nothing is important enough to sacrifice or put your own life or others' lives at risk. Chris Hayes, Second Vice President of Workers Compensation and Transportation Risk Control at Travelers, thanks so much for joining us today.