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Daydreaming tops list of causes of fatal distracted driving accidents

Some 62 percent of fatal accidents in U.S. in the past two years involving distracted driving were attributed to daydreaming. (The Trucker file photo)

The Trucker News Services

4/10/2013

ERIE, Pa. — With all the recent national attention concerning the use of cellphones while driving, one might think that mobile phones would top the list of causes of fatal accidents attributed to distracted driving.

Not even close, reports Erie Insurance, which noted that of the more than 65,000 people killed in car crashes over the past two years, one in 10 were in crashes where at least one of the drivers was distracted.

Try daydreaming, which was the reported cause of 62 percent of distracted driving accident involving a fatality, based on police report data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), a nationwide census of fatal motor vehicle traffic crashes maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Erie Insurance consulted with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in its analysis.

"Distracted driving is any activity that takes your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, or your mind off your primary task of driving safely," Doug Smith, senior vice president of personal lines at Erie Insurance, said. "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 their risk of being involved in a fatal crash."

Here are the top 10 distractions involved in fatal car crashes, according to FARS data:

1. Generally distracted or “lost in thought” (daydreaming), 62 percent

2. Cellphone use (talking, listening, dialing, texting) 12 percent

3. Outside person, object or event, such as rubbernecking

4. Other occupants (talking with or looking at other people in car), 5 percent

5. Using or reaching for device brought into the vehicle, such as navigational device, headphones, 2 percent

6. Eating or drinking, 2 percent

7. Adjusting audio or climate controls, 2 percent

8. Using other device/controls integral to vehicle, such as adjusting rear view mirrors, seats or using OEM navigation system, 1 percent

9. Moving object in vehicle, such as pet or insect, 1 percent

10. Smoking related (include smoking, lighting up, putting ashes in ashtray

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Smith noted that because FARS data on distraction is based largely on police officers' judgment at the time of the crash, and because some people may be reluctant to admit they were distracted when being interviewed by police after a fatal car crash, the numbers are difficult to verify and may, in fact, under-represent the seriousness and prevalence of driving distractions.

The data is meaningful, however, because unlike surveys in which consumers self-report the types of distracted behaviors they engage in, the FARS data is based on actual police reports on fatal crashes, he said.

In addition to encouraging drivers to avoid the distractions above, Smith and Erie Insurance offers the following tips to avoid cell phone distraction:

• Let incoming cell phone calls go to voice mail

• If someone calls you while they're driving, ask them to call you back later and hang up

• If you must talk or text, pull over

•Lead by example; if you want your children to drive safely, show them how it's done

Visit www.erieinsurance.com/distracteddriving to see an infographic on distracted driving.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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