Distracted driving involves any action that takes a motorist’s attention away from the primary task. It could include diverting the mind, looking away from the road, or taking the hands off the wheel.
At least one driver was distracted in 10 percent of the car crashes that took the lives of 65,000 people in a recent two-year period, according to analysis by Erie Insurance of data of traffic accident reports, claimsjournal.com reports.
Most efforts to curb distracted driving focus on the increased use of cell phones and other electronic communications devices people use while driving. Motorists who use handheld devices are four times more likely to be injured in serious crashes, leading nearly a dozen states to ban the use of cell phones and four others to crack down on texting while driving.
Believe it or not, though, cell phone use is not the leading cause of distracted driving accident, according to the Erie Insurance study.
The leading causes of distracted driving for people behind the wheel:
- Generally distracted:
62 percent of distracted drivers are simply lost in thought, daydreaming and inattentive to changing traffic conditions. When drivers are lost in thought, they are experiencing cognitive distraction and may not react to hazards in time to avoid an accident.
- Cell phone use:
12 percent of drivers talk, listen, dial, or text on handheld phones.
- Outside person, object of event:
Seven percent of distracted drivers are rubbernecking or distracted by a person or event such as a car wreck.
- Other occupants:
Five percent of distracted drivers are talking to or looking at other passengers in the vehicle. Teen drivers distracted by the antics of friends while joyriding or a mother distracted by two children misbehaving in the back seat are examples.
- Using or reaching for device in vehicle:
Two percent of distracted drivers are operating a navigational device such as a GPS or item such as stereo headphones.
- Eating or drinking:
Trying to juggle food while driving is both a manual and visual distraction, requiring drivers to take their hands off the wheel to handle food or beverage and take their eyes off the road periodically. Two percent of distracted drivers are peeling back the wrapper on a taco or hamburger or reaching for a cold drink.
- Changing audio or climate controls:
Two percent of distracted drivers are reaching to change the radio station or adjust the sound, while others may be trying to cool off the car on a hot day.
- Switching vehicle devices/controls:
One percent looks away from the road to adjust rear-view mirrors or seats.
- Moving objects inside the car:
One percent of drivers are dealing with a pet such as a cat or dog, and others could be swatting an insect. An unsecured pet is a dangerous distraction in a vehicle.
One percent of drivers are getting a cigarette out of the pack, lighting up, or trying to flick the ashes into an ashtray.
Distraction.gov estimates that at any given time of the day nationwide, some 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or electronic devices.
The wide majority of distracted drivers, however, simply aren’t paying attention to their surroundings, according to the observations of law enforcement, who put together crash reports.
With that in mind, motorists would do well to turn off, tune in, and watch the road to avoid serious car accidents.