Talk about being your own worst enemy. Becoming “lost in thought” is actually far more dangerous than talking on the phone or texting while behind the wheel, with 62% of all distracted driving-related traffic fatalities caused by simple daydreaming. That’s according to an analysis of crash reports conducted by Erie Insurance, based on police report data for auto accidents from 2010 and 2011 compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
NHTSA statistics show that 10 percent of the more than 65,000 crash-related fatalities recorded during that period were caused by at least one of the drivers involved being distracted. The most vilified enabler in this regard – cell phone talking and texting – actually came in a distant second at 12 percent of all fatalities caused by unfocused motorists.
“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,” says Doug Smith, Erie’s senior vice president of personal lines at Erie Insurance. “We looked at what law enforcement officers across the country reported when they filled out reports on fatal crashes and the results were disturbing.”
They’re especially disconcerting in that, unlike operating a cell phone or smoking while driving, most of the disruptions reported as being the underlying causes of fatal car wrecks are beyond regulation. It’s not likely that even the most dystopian society imaginable would ever come to ban talking to other occupants or listening to music while driving. Of course, as in any such analysis the numbers can be skewed because of the reluctance of some people to report or to underestimate distracted-driving behavior, especially to law enforcement officials investigating a crash. Still, it’s a stern reminder for all of us to realize the seriousness of the consequences of what might happen whenever any of us takes to the road.
Sure, we need to switch off the phone and lay off the Big Macs while driving, but we also need to keep our attention tightly focused like a Formula One driver careening around a racecourse at 150 miles per hour. If you need to yell at the kids acting up in the back seat, pull over. If a bee is buzzing your bonnet, open a window. And always adjust the seat and mirrors, fasten your seat belt, tune the radio in to your favorite station and enter a navigation destination before you shift the transmission into drive.
Here’s the full top-ten list of the deadliest driver distractions:
- Generally distracted or “lost in thought” (daydreaming): 62%
- Cell phone use (talking, listening, dialing, texting): 12%
- Paying attention to an outside person, object or event: 7%
- Interacting with other occupants: 5%
- Using or reaching for a device in the vehicle, such as a portable GPS system or headphones: 2%
- Eating or drinking: 2%
- Adjusting audio or climate controls: 2%
- Operating other in-vehicle device, such as adjusting the rear view mirrors, seats, or using OEM navigation system: 1%
- Moving object in vehicle, such as an insect or unrestrained pet: 1%
- Smoking-related (smoking, lighting up, putting ashes in ashtray): 1%
Wow. Daydreaming. That means “boredom while driving”. Boredom causes daydreaming. Daydreaming causes accidents.
We have become such a society of NEEDING something to do all the time. I admit—I am my own worst enemy. Not happy unless I am doing three things at once.
Turn up the radio. Sing. Drink coffee. Stay awake. Whatever it takes. Just don’t get bored.