With all the attention that texting and driving has gotten from the media and law enforcement these days, its not surprising that many drivers cite it as a key cause of distracted driving deaths when asked about the subject. However, in a new study released by the Erie Insurance Group, they found that while texting and driving is a serious issue, it is not the number one cause of fatalities.
Instead, cell phone use was surprisingly outranked by daydreaming, or being “lost in thought,” which was cited as a common cause of distracted driving according to the group’s analysis of 2010-2011 police reports and records from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), which is a nationwide census of fatal motor vehicle crashes that is recorded and maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It is estimated that 10 percent of all automobile accident fatalities involved at least one distracted driver with a whopping 62 percent of these accidents being attributed to lapses where a driver is “lost in thought” while behind the wheel. As for texting and other types of mobile phone use, the study revealed that this type of distraction only accounted for a mere 12 percent of the accidents reported. It is important to note however that since the study used police reports to reach its conclusions, the numbers could greatly vary and also downplay the role other types of distracted driving have in vehicular accidents.
In a separate statement released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, at least 20 complex decisions are required to help a driver maintain control of the vehicle and to stay on course while driving on the road. The group strongly urges drivers to be highly aware of when their thoughts drift away from the road to other subjects, and to use strategies to reduce distractions and maintain focus.
While texting and driving is outlawed in many states (including my home state of Michigan), daydreaming while driving is a phenomena that is very difficult to enforce with laws, and it is up to drivers to stay focused on the road and avoid daydreaming and other common distractions such as loud music, gawking, eating or drinking, conversing with other passengers, and even smoking while driving.