Study lists the driving distractions that lead to fatal crashes

Distracted driving is a huge problem in Chicago and throughout the state. Despite laws against texting or using a handheld cellphone while driving, these distractions are still responsible for countless car accidents and injuries.

But it is important to remember that cellphones are not the only source of driver distraction. According to one recent study, they’re not even the most frequent source of distraction that leads to an accident. Research shows that the culprit in the highest percentage of fatal distracted driving accidents is daydreaming.

The research was conducted by an insurance company based in Pennsylvania. Researchers looked at data from more than 65,000 car accident fatalities logged in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System. This national database is maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and accident fatality reports are submitted by law enforcement agencies.

According to the study results, daydreaming or being “lost in thought” was responsible for 62 percent of distractions leading to fatal car accidents. Cellphone use came in second and accounted for 12 percent of fatal crashes.

Have you ever driven by a crash site and slowed down because you just couldn’t help but take a look? Or, have you taken your eyes off the road to check out an attractive pedestrian? Lots of people do it, and “rubbernecking” at a person, object or event outside the car reportedly contributed to 7 percent of fatal accidents.

Surprisingly, 5 percent of fatal car accidents were attributed to distractions stemming from talking to or looking at other passengers in the vehicle. The remaining distractions listed, which each accounted for 1-2 percent of crash fatalities were things like:

  • Reaching for objects in the vehicle
  • Adjusting dashboard controls and electronics, mirrors or navigation systems
  • Eating and drinking
  • An unrestrained pet in the vehicle
  • Lighting and smoking a cigarette

All of us have been guilty of engaging in at least one of these driving distractions. Some are obviously more dangerous than others, but these study results make an important point: any distraction while driving can be fatal. That’s why we must all make the effort to stay focused and pay attention each time we get behind the wheel.

Source: Insurance Journal, “Insurer Analyzes Top 10 Driving Distractions Involved in Fatal Car Crashes,” Apr. 4, 2013