Regular readers of our Lawnside Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury Law Blog likely know that there has been a steady decline over the years in the frequency of workers’ comp claims. To be sure, there are still far too many workplace injuries, but because of advances in safety gear and practices, the rate of on-the-job injuries has been eroded over several decades – with one big exception.
The number of work injuries that are the result of motor vehicle crashes has been on the rise for a decade, according to the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI). In fact, an NCCI spokesperson said that there are many dangerous jobs, but “the most dangerous thing that any worker can do is drive a motor vehicle.”
Big changes began in 2011
The increase in work-related injuries in car and truck accidents began in 2011 – the same year Apple revolutionized personal communication with its iPhone. While it has not been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that distracted driving is causing the rise in work-related crashes, the obvious connection “jumps off the page at you,” said NCCI Executive Director and Actuary Jim Davis, one of the authors of the recent study.
The connection is strengthened by a previous NCCI report that showed that before 2011, workers’ comp claims caused by motor vehicle crashes were declining. And then the iPhone came along.
One rising, one falling
Since Apple’s phone reordered the world, workers’ compensation claims involving vehicle crashes have climbed 4.9 percent. Compare that to workers’ comp claims for all causes in that same period: down 20.1 percent.
Not only are workers’ comp claims involving motor vehicle accidents on the rise, but the severity of the injuries in those cases is also climbing. A recent news report stated it this way: “On average motor-vehicle related claims cost 80 percent more than workers’ comp claims from all causes, according to NCCI.”
Signs of a safer future
The organization says that the data indicates that the increase in crash-related workers’ comp might be leveling off, in part because the number of people with smartphones is no longer dramatically rising (nearly everyone has one now). There is also hope that auto manufacturers will soon incorporate phone-blocking tech into vehicles to make driving safer for everyone.
There’s also evidence that driver assistance features (audible and visible driver warnings, automatic braking, etc.) are making roads safer and will improve safety even more in the near future. One day soon, it might be true that driving will be one of the safest things a worker can do.