Public safety officials have declared April National Distracted Driving Awareness Month in an effort to raise public consciousness about the extent of the problem of distracted driving. While the dangers of distracted driving have been well-publicized, and many states have passed laws trying to curb people’s distracted driving behaviors, some drivers are not getting the message. An insurance company analysis of motor vehicle accident data completed in 2013 revealed the most common causes of distracted driving accidents.

Driver distractions a widespread danger

Distracted driving is a nation-wide problem that seems to be getting worse. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s latest National Occupant Protection Use Survey revealed that at any given time during daylight hours about 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or hand-held electronic devices behind the wheel in the U.S. A 2013 AT&T survey of drivers over 18 years old showed that more people are engaging in distracted driving behaviors than in the past. Of those who responded to the survey, 49 percent admitted to texting or emailing while driving, and 60 percent said they never did so three years ago.

Research demonstrates the dangers of distracted driving. According to Erie Insurance’s analysis of information in the NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, there were about 65,000 auto accident fatalities in the U.S. in 2010 and 2011. Of those deaths, one in 10 were attributable to distracted driving accidents. NHTSA reported similar statistics: the agency logged 3,331 distracted driving accident fatalities in 2011 and another 387,000 injuries from distracted driving crashes.

Causes of distracted driving accidents

The analysis that Erie Insurance performed of FARS data for 2010 and 2011 showed that the most common cause of distracted driving accidents was drivers daydreaming or being “lost in thought.” In 62 percent of the motor vehicle accidents classified as distracted driving accidents, police recorded drivers daydreaming as the cause. The second most common cause of distracted driving accidents was cell phone use for talking, texting or emailing, causing 12 percent of accidents. The third most common cause of distracted driving accidents was drivers looking at an event or person outside the vehicle, responsible for 7 percent of accidents. The fourth most common cause of distracted driving accidents, in 5 percent of accidents, was distractions from other passengers in the vehicles.

Other common causes of distracted driving accidents included:

  • Reaching for or using devices drivers brought into vehicles
  • Smoking
  • Eating
  • Drinking
  • Objects moving inside the vehicles, such as pets or insects
  • Adjusting vehicle controls

Talk to a lawyer

Drivers are supposed to give their full attention to the task of driving when they are behind the wheel. However, not all drivers use appropriate caution, and they put others on the road at risk. If you have been injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver, speak with a seasoned car accident attorney who has a record of successfully recovering compensation for accident victims.