Author Denton Gay: Dealing with an auto accident like ’spinning a roulette wheel’
Are American motorists playing a high-risk game of “Highway Roulette” when they venture out on the road? Denton Gay, a former insurance claims professional and author of the book “American Highway Roulette,” says the numbers speak for themselves:
• Close to 6 million auto accidents every year.
• About 2.5 million injuries each year in auto accidents.
• Nearly 33,800 traffic deaths in 2009.
InsuranceQuotes.com visited with Gay to discuss the state of our highways, and what drivers can do to keep themselves – and their families – safe on the open road.
InsuranceQuotes.com: What inspired you to write the book?
|Denton Gay, author of “American Highway Roulette,” says: “People don’t realize it, but consumers have more power than they think when it comes to auto accidents.”|
Denton Gay: Back in March 1980, I lost a very close friend – actually my first cousin – to an auto accident. That’s still with me. As time went on, I realized people just don’t consider how pervasive auto accidents really are. We lost 43,000 people to accidents here in the U.S. in 2005, and thankfully that number fell to 33,800 in 2009. I’d like to see that trend continue.
I also have a background in auto insurance. I was a claims manager at State Farm and, in that capacity, I was constantly exposed to the consequences of auto accidents. I’ve seen how people change, physically and emotionally, after an accident. It totally changed their personalities.
So I set out to write a book about auto accidents. It took me seven years. But I did feel I was the logical person to write it.
InsuranceQuotes.com: Why the decrease in traffic deaths?
Gay: I think the economy has a lot to do with it. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that when unemployment is high, accidents are low. They can actually pinpoint that data. In areas across the U.S. where unemployment is highest, and where the prices of gasoline is the most expensive, accidents are at their lowest levels. People just aren’t driving as much in those situations.
InsuranceQuotes.com: Any other reasons?
Gay: Yes, I think law enforcement has done a good job of watching for things like texting and cell phone use while driving. That has helped keep the roads safer.
Another factor is that our cars are safer. We have more cars made with side airbags and more vehicles with electronic stability control. Automakers and the government are crash-testing more often and are learning a lot from those tests. We’re simply seeing more and more safe cars.
The good news is that the auto companies have really picked up on that. The message has gone down to the dealerships and to salespeople: Talk up safety with buyers. That has helped educate the public.
|Denton Gay’s experience as an auto insurance claims professional helped drive the writing of “American Highway Roulette.”|
InsuranceQuotes.com: In the book, you use the term “casino” again and again, especially when discussing the insurance, legal, government and automaker sectors. What’s that about?
Gay: Yes, I used the roulette analogy for the book – that was intentional and that was why the book has the title it does.
My point was that there are so many variables that go into dealing with an auto accident that you might as well be spinning a roulette wheel. The insurance angle, in particular, in how it responds to financial loss, is a casino all its own, and one where the industry has the advantage over consumers. But I believe consumers can go into these “casinos” armed with knowledge and make a real difference about the outcome.
Let me give you an example. In the insurance industry, you have underwriters who calculate the odds on whether you win or lose at “highway accident roulette.” You have insurance agents who take your money. Then you have claims employees who act as cashiers. It’s just like a real casino.
The consumer is the player at the gaming tables. Like a poker player, a good driver can control the odds of getting into an accident and dealing with an insurance claim. Good drivers can drive safer, control when and where they drive, and can determine just how much insurance they want to purchase.
Also, as citizens, we can lobby our legislators about what traffic rules should be in place and how each should be enforced.
People don’t realize it, but consumers have more power than they think when it comes to auto accidents.
InsuranceQuotes.com: What more can consumers do to prevent accidents?
Gay: There are lots of things. They can buy safer cars. They can avoid driving when they’re emotionally upset. They can stop talking on the cell phone when they’re driving. Anything that distracts you from the task at hand – driving safely – should be avoided. I mention in the book that driving on Friday and Saturday night increases your odds of an accident. Don’t drive, or drive early or sparingly, on those nights.
InsuranceQuotes.com: What’s the takeaway for readers?
Gay: If someone reads the book, he or she will be in a better position to avoid traffic accidents and avoid serious injury. I want people to know that if you have a serious accident, it can change your life – and not for the better. But you also have the power to control a lot of what goes into auto accidents. I’m hoping that people will recognize that and take the steps needed to minimize that risk.