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What Are the Deadliest Driver Distractions?

Person driving while using a handheld cell phone.

In 2013, Erie Insurance conducted a review of police report data in the Fatality Analysis reporting System (FARS), a nationwide census of fatal motor vehicle traffic crashes maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), with the goal of understanding the effects of distracted driving.

In their analysis of more than 65,000 fatal crashes that occurred over the two-year period being observed, the researchers determined that roughly one in ten were the result of distracted driving. They then determined the types of distractions that were the most deadly – their findings may come as a surprise.

Top 10 Causes of Distracted Driving Accidents

  1. General Distraction – Surprisingly, roughly 62% of the distracted driving accidents studied by Erie Insurance were the result of “general distraction.” That means no device or object was present at the time of the crash, the driver was simply inattentive, lost in thought, or daydreaming.
  2. Cell Phone Use – About 12% of distracted driving deaths were associated with cell phone use. For their study, cell phone use was defined to include talking, texting, listening to a voicemail, checking email, dialing, checking social media, or any other action that involved a mobile phone.
  3. Rubbernecking – 7% of fatal distracted driving accident involved the driver being distracted by an outside person, object, or event. This is an important reminder that distractions do not need to be inside the vehicle.
  4. Other Occupants – In about 5% of fatal distracting driving accidents, the driver was distracted by another occupant in the vehicle. This includes simply talking or looking at others in a car. This is one reason many states limit the number of under-21 occupants a minor can have in their vehicle.
  5. Using or Reaching for an Object – Using or trying to reach an object, such as a CD or charging cable, was associated with 2% of fatal distracted driving accidents.
  6. Eating or Drinking – Eating and drinking is often overlooked as a distracted activity, and are especially common on longer road trips. Still, these actions require you take your eyes of the road and at least one hand of the wheel. Eating and drinking were responsible for 2% of all fatal distracted driving accidents.
  7. Adjusting Audio or Climate Controls – There is a reason your driver ed instructor advised that you set your audio and climate controls before getting on the road. These actions are considered a driver distraction and can increase your risk of accident. Such behavior was associated with 2% of fatal distracted driving accidents.
  8. Adjusting Mirrors, Windows, Locks – Similar to above, these actions should be done before beginning a trip or while at a safe stop.
  9. Moving Object in Vehicle – This category includes lose items like empty water bottles and cargo as well as pets and even lose insects. These were associated with 1 out of every 10 distracted driving deaths.
  10. Smoking – Smoking while driving is a distraction and was associated with about 1% of all fatal distracted driving accidents.

Contact an Experienced Distracted Driving Attorney

If you or a loved one have been injured in an auto accident due to the actions of a distracted driver, you may be entitled to compensation. Our experienced auto accident lawyers are available 24/7, nights and weekends to evaluate your claim. Our firm has offices in Corpus ChristiSan Antonio, Austin, and Houston, serving clients across Texas and nationwide. We can meet you wherever you reside, whether it be at home, at your workplace, or in the hospital. Contact us today for a free case review.




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