April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, and what better way to kick things off than with a study on fatal crashes? As it turns out, despite the popular belief that texting and talking while driving is the leading cause of car crashes, it turns out that daydreaming and other distractions is the bigger culprit.
Erie Insurance Group looked at data collected from law enforcement agencies, which showed that out of all fatal car crashes, 10-percent of them were due to a distraction. Despite what one might assume as the cause of the distraction, cell phones were in the minority. As it turns out, being distracted, such as zoning out or being "lost in thought" is the primary cause, responsible for about 62-percent of crashes.
So what kind of distractions, cell phones aside, are causing drivers to crash? The top ones on the list include loose pets and items in the car, rubbernecking at another crash or some roadside event, eating while driving, and talking to other passengers in the car -- fairly common things we might fall into the trap of thinking aren't distracting.
Said Erie's Personal Lines Senior Vice President Doug Smith, "The results [of the analysis] were disturbing." Drivers are being urged to pay better attention to the road, and to put away, shut off, and disable potential distractions. To keep one's mind from wondering, suggestions including playing the "what if" game, where drivers ask themselves how they would handle certain situations on the road, such as a car suddenly braking in front of them.