August 1, 2019

Will Autonomous Vehicles Impact Workers’ Comp?

The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) recently published “Braking” New Ground: Autonomous Vehicles & Workers’ Compensation, exploring how self-driving cars could impact workers’ comp in the near future.

Citing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 30% of civilian jobs required some driving in 2016, and it is hypothesized that autonomous vehicles could partially or completely replace some of these job functions. While this would imply significant economic impacts, for workers’ comp this has the potential to greatly reduce motor vehicle accidents (MVAs).

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that the number of road fatalities in the United States increased by over 14% from 2014-2016. Furthermore, NCCI data found that MVA claim frequency has increased in workers’ comp in recent years, a trend sometimes attributed to increased smartphone penetration in the market, creating more distracted drivers, applying to both employees and other drivers on the road.

According to NCCI, over the last five years, more than 40% of workers’ comp fatalities involved MVAs, and MVA claims cost 80-100% more than the average claim because they involve more severe injuries. Furthermore, driving-related classifications account for 25% of workers’ comp payroll and 50% of workers’ comp premiums.

It is estimated that a 25-75% reduction in MVA claims could yield savings between $1 billion to $4 billion, indicating that significant evolution of self-driving technology, if it effectively reduced MVAs, could lead to great savings in workers’ comp spend.

Though the technology still has room to grow, and while there are various other considerations to keep in mind, self-driving vehicles could very soon prove worthwhile to workers’ comp, as other safety advancements have led to increases in safety.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a forward collision warning system coupled with autobrake can reduce front-to-rear crashes with injuries by 56%. However, a caveat to findings such as these is that drivers may grow overly reliant on expanded safety features. One study found that when drivers had an automated parallel parking system, they were less aware of their surroundings than drivers who did not have such functionality.

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