According the insurancejournal.com, an analysis of the top ten driving distractions that lead to fatal car accidents conducted by Erie Insurance shows that one in ten of the over 65,000 people killed in motor vehicle crashes over the last couple of years were involved in accidents where at least one of the drivers was distracted.
Eerie Insurance based the analysis on data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in its Fatal Analysis Reporting System (FARS), which is a nationwide census of fatal car accidents.
Many Distractions Cause Car Accidents
According to Doug Smith, Senior Vice President of Personal Lines at Erie Insurance, they looked at accident reports filled by police officers across the country and were disturbed about how many fatal car accidents were caused by distractions. The analysis included fatal crash reports from 2010 and 2011 and police officers listed a majority of drivers as “generally distracted” or “lost in thought”.
Being distracted is not the only distracting activity that drivers indulge in that causes car accidents. Among others, the ten most common are:
- Sixty two (62%) percent of drivers daydream, which is the common term for being “generally distracted” or “lost in thought”;
- Twelve percent (12%) of drivers were distracted using their cell phones (talking, listening to a conversation, dialing, texting);
- Seven percent (7%) of drivers were distracted by a person, object or event outside the vehicle (rubbernecking);
- Five (5%) percent of drivers were distracted talking to passengers or looking to other people traveling in their car;
- Two percent (2%) of drivers were distracted while trying to reach or using a device in their car (like headphones or a navigational devise like a GPS device);
- Another two percent (2%) of drivers were distracted while eating or drinking;
- Two percent (2%) of drivers were distracted while adjusting the radio or climate controls in their vehicle;
- One percent (1%) of drivers were distracted other controls integral to their car, like adjusting the rear view mirrors, seats or using the OEM navigation system in newer vehicles;
- Another one percent (1%) of drivers were distracted while trying to move an object (like a pet or a box) inside their vehicle or trying to get rid of an insect;
- One percent (1%) of drivers were distracted while smoking, which includes lighting up, putting ashes in the ashtray, etc.
Please note that as admitted by the authors of the analysis, the data from FARS is very difficult to verify because it is basically based on the police officer’s observation after the crash and the distracted driver’s reluctance to make any incriminating statements to the police after the accident. Yet, the authors feel that if anything, the numbers underscore the seriousness of the situation with driving distractions.
Moreover, despite the unverifiable nature of the data, the authors feel that the statistics are meaningful because as opposed to surveys where drivers self-report the different kinds of distracting behaviors they engage, this information relates to actual accidents and the actual police reports generated for those fatal crashes.
Don’t Let Devices Distract You
The solution is simple: don’t get distracted by devices. Erie Insurance recommends that drivers not answer incoming calls and let them go to voice mail. Otherwise, answer the call, tell them to call you later and hang up. Most of the times the incoming call will not relate to an emergency. If you see that the call is from a close relative (and thus feel that it may be an emergency), pull over if traffic and circumstances allow and take the call while stopped by the side of the road and not while driving. The same applies to texting. Finally, lead by example: show your children how to drive safely if you want them to eventually become safe drivers.
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