Millions of dollars are spent on campaigns against texting while driving. But texting is just one form of distraction. Eating. Smoking. The radio. Pets. Or simply zoned out.
According to federal traffic data, the most common cause of distracted driving deaths is …. daydreaming at the wheel. Are you paying attention to the road? What dangerous things are your fellow drivers doing?
Complacency kills – fatal distractions while driving
We feel safe in our vehicles — a little too comfortable. About 25 percent of all accidents happen because of distracted driving. Motor vehicle drivers think they can safely multi-task. But the statistics prove this is not true.
Erie Insurance and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety analyzed crash data from the federal Fatality Analysis Reporting System. FARS is a nationwide data collection system administered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The analysis covered 172,000 traffic fatalities over the last five years, with eye-opening results:
- Cellphones were the main factor in 14 percent of fatal crashes. This includes text messaging, using phone apps and dialing numbers, or simply talking or listening on a phone.
- Outside distractions caused 6 percent of the deaths. This includes “rubbernecking” at accidents, pedestrians or other objects or events outside the car.
- Fellow occupants caused another 5 percent of fatalities. Talking to passengers in the front seat or back seats diverts attention from the road.
Other fatal distractions cited by FARS include: using or reaching for navigation devices, adjusting the stereo or climate controls, adjusting the mirrors or seats, smoking and moving objects inside the car such as pets or insects.
Day dreaming is the biggest cause of fatalities
Have you ever missed your exit because you weren’t paying attention? Have you ever arrived at your destination without remembering most of the trip? Have you ever run a red light or stop sign at a familiar intersection?
The FARS data reveal that daydreaming, being lost in thought and “general distraction” is by far the greatest cause of distracted driving deaths – 61 percent.
Driving on “autopilot” shuts off the critical part of the brain that anticipates danger. Defensive drivers avoid risky situations or react quicker. Daydreaming drivers cruise straight into harm’s way.