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Workers Compensation Accident MVA Spike and Smartphone Use


MVA Workers Compensation Accident Increase Possibly Linked To Smartphones

The Workers Compensation accident increase reports are a thing of the past.

All of us know that on-the-job accidents have decreased significantly over the last few years.   The one constant in these reports is the lack of a root cause.

picture of auto workers compensation accident
Wikimedia License Nehoda Uhersky

Why has the workers compensation accident rate fallen by 17.6%? No one to date has fully explained the phenomenon.   Technology was one of the recommended root-cause decreases.  Carpal tunnel syndrome, for instance has been reduced by 50% (amazing).

Now we have the same type of comparison for the increase in Motor Vehicle Accidents (MVA’s).  NCCI recently released a study of the MVA-related Class Codes.   The intensive travel-related class codes (trucking, taxi, etc.) were of course, the ones that accounted for much of the MVA’s.

One shocking statistic in the report was that 40% of all Workers Compensation accident fatalities were due to  MVA’s.  That percentage is a serious and startling statistic.   The full report by NCCI – recommended that you download the whole study from here.

Mark Walls – Safety National Insurance- recently remarked that MVA’s account for their most serious workers compensation accident claims.  The same can be said for the NCCI study.

The year 2011 pegs the start of the increase in MVA’s.   This starts the parallel use of smartphones.  However, no report has ever directly concluded that smartphone use was or remains the root cause of the increase in MVA’s or the workers compensation accident rate. 

I decided to dig a little deeper.   This Bloomberg Article – Read past the Op-Ed headline shows that only 1.4% of MVA’s since 2011 resulted from smartphone use.

If you read further into the Bloomberg article, the reason for such a low number comes from the fact that not all cell phone use accidents are reported to the NHTSA properly  i.e., the Tennessee conundrum in the same article.

We all either have been or have seen the hypnotized driver in the left lane swerving like a DUI candidate in the left lane of a four lane highway.  Last week, I drove 15 hours in two days to make (ironically) an NCCI State Advisory Meeting and to make other meetings.

Street Sign of workers compensation accident Cellphone Prohibited
Public Domain Use – WhisperToMe

I decided to count the number of smartphone-hypnotized people in the 22 hours stretch of driving.  I identified  16 left lane drivers that were on their phone by texting or talking in 22 hours.   This route was on rather remote interstate highways.

I did not count the right lane smartphone users as at least they were out of the way and driving slower to offset their unsafe driving habit.

I only counted during daylight hours to not count DUI or drivers that do not do well at night.  That reduced the counted hours on the interstates to 17.     So 16/17 or 1 driver blocked the left lane due to smartphone use every 55 minutes.

Georgia recently enacted a law joining 16 other states on limiting cellphone or smartphone use.   However, the use of bluetooth devices  is still OK.   Accident statistics show that bluetooth does not reduce accidents as the main culprit is inattentive driving.

The bottom is smartphone use and cause of traffic accidents has not  been established – it is not because the fact that such a statistic exists – it is that the stat is not and has not been measured well.    Why? – Who wants to tell the officer that they were on their phone either by texting or talking?

Someday, we may be able to identify smartphone use as the root cause of a workers compensation accident.

Also Read: Combined Ratio Difference Debate – Calendar vs. Accident Year

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2 Responses

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James J Moore - Workers Comp Expert

Raleigh, NC, United States

About The Author...

James founded a Workers’ Compensation consulting firm, J&L Risk Management Consultants, Inc. in 1996. J&L’s mission is to reduce our clients’ Workers Compensation premiums by using time-tested techniques. J&L’s claims, premium, reserve and Experience Mod reviews have saved employers over $9.8 million in earned premiums over the last three years. J&L has saved numerous companies from bankruptcy proceedings as a result of insurance overpayments.

James has over 27 years of experience in insurance claims, audit, and underwriting, specializing in Workers’ Compensation. He has supervised, and managed the administration of Workers’ Compensation claims, and underwriting in over 45 states. His professional experience includes being the Director of Risk Management for the North Carolina School Boards Association. He created a very successful Workers’ Compensation Injury Rehabilitation Unit for school personnel.

James’s educational background, which centered on computer technology, culminated in earning a Masters of Business Administration (MBA); an Associate in Claims designation (AIC); and an Associate in Risk Management designation (ARM). He is a Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) and a licensed financial advisor. The NC Department of Insurance has certified him as an insurance instructor. He also possesses a Bachelors’ Degree in Actuarial Science.

LexisNexis has twice recognized his blog as one of the Top 25 Blogs on Workers’ Compensation. J&L has been listed in AM Best’s Preferred Providers Directory for Insurance Experts – Workers Compensation for over eight years. He recently won the prestigious Baucom Shine Lifetime Achievement Award for his volunteer contributions to the area of risk management and safety. James was recently named as an instructor for the prestigious Insurance Academy.

James is on the Board of Directors and Treasurer of the North Carolina Mid-State Safety Council. He has published two manuals on Workers’ Compensation and three different claims processing manuals. He has also written and has been quoted in numerous articles on reducing Workers’ Compensation costs for public and private employers. James publishes a weekly newsletter with 7,000 readers.

He currently possess press credentials and am invited to various national Workers Compensation conferences as a reporter.

James’s articles or interviews on Workers’ Compensation have appeared in the following publications or websites:

  • Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS)
  • Entrepreneur Magazine
  • Bloomberg Business News
  • WorkCompCentral.com
  • Claims Magazine
  • Risk & Insurance Magazine
  • Insurance Journal
  • Workers Compensation.com
  • LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites
  • Various trade publications


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