New Study Suggests Daydreaming Poses Most Serious Distraction than Cell Phones


April 20, 2013

There has been extensive focus on mobile phone use as a form of distracted driving by federal regulators and lawmakers, but a recent study suggests there may be another form of distracted driving that is a greater cause for concern. According to new research by Erie Insurance Group, drivers who are daydreaming pose five times the risk of that posed by drivers talking or texting on cell phones.

The study analyzed crash data from 65,000 fatal collisions over a recent two-year period and found that ten percent of the fatal collisions were caused by distracted driving. More than sixty percent of those involved in these fatal crashes indicated that they were “lost in thought” when the collision occurred. The number of drivers that gave this explanation for their distracted driving dwarfs the volume of drivers involved in fatal accidents that indicated they were using a mobile phone. Twelve percent of drivers involved in these fatal car crashes indicated they were involved in calling or texting on their mobile phone during the collision.

The authors of the study hope that it draws attention to the issue of distracted driving and the danger of losing mental focus when driving. Erie Senior Vice President, Douglas Smith indicated, “We looked at what law enforcement officers across the country reported when they filled out reports on fatal crashes, and the results were disturbing. We hope the data will encourage people to avoid these high-risk behaviors that needlessly increase the risk of being involved in a fatal crash.”

This new data provides a reminder that distracted driving can occur on multiple levels. While motorists may consider diverting one’s eyes from the roadway as the most common form of driver inattention, mental distractions can be equally disruptive. Data that shows hands-free restrictions on cell phone use in some states have had little impact on distracted driving rates reinforces the view that having one’s mind pre-occupied with issues other than driving may be just as disruptive as using one’s hands or eyes to operate a cell phone. This means that engaging in conversations with passengers, listening to audiobooks or the radio and talking hands-free on the phone also may be high-risk behaviors. Because the tendencey to lose mental focus is greater when drivers are fatigued or sleepy, this new study provides further support for the proposition that drivers should avoid driving when they are not sufficiently rested.

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Category: Auto Accidents

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