Distracted driving1 is a major contributing factor in many automobile collisions. In an effort to gain insight into the common types and causes of distracted driving and the resulting accidents, Erie Insurance did a study of all fatal collisions in the US that took place in 2010 and 2011 in which the driver was distracted.2 The results were stunning. In 62% of the fatal accidents studied, the distraction was solely the fault of the driver. Namely, the driver was just inattentive or “lost in thought.” The other 38% of drivers were distracted by external factors.

This comprehensive study outlined the major causes of distracted driving and shows their likelihood to contribute to an accident.

Cell phone use The biggest external factor in distractions that Erie found was cell phone use, occurring about 12% of the time in fatal collisions involving a distracted driver. Cell phone use includes talking on the phone, listening to something on the phone, texting, and dialing. Florida has specifically tried to address this issue with its ban on texting and driving3 and many automobile manufacturers now produce vehicles that allow for hands-free phone use to attempt to address the safety issue created by people paying more attention to their phone than the road. Using these hands-free devices and waiting to respond and send texts until you’ve reached your destination are your best bets at avoiding this risk.

Outside person, object or event The next biggest distractor, occurring about 7% of the time, is where the driver is paying more attention to something outside of the car than to the road. Frequently referred to as “rubbernecking”, even a quick gaze at something you drive by can cause you to miss the car stopping in front of you. The surest way to mitigate this risk of distraction is to always make sure that you slow down or pull over if there’s something that unavoidably catches your eye while driving.

Other occupants A common occurrence leading to an accident is when the driver is looking at or talking to a passenger in the vehicle. According to Erie, this happens about 5% of the time in distracted driving fatal car accidents. Unfortunately, this is one of the hardest distractions to control because of the frequency with which people transport passengers, but the easiest way is to actively concentrate on the road instead of passengers. Your priority should be the road, not the conversation in the car.

Using or reaching for device/object Around 2% of the time, these drivers became distracted because they were fumbling around for an object in their car. The best way to negate this risk is to place things within easy reaching distance that you will need while driving. If you need something that requires more attention, have a passenger grab it. If alone, wait until you’re at a stop or pull over before trying to grab something that can’t easily be reached.

Eating or drinking Eating or drinking is one of the more obvious causes of distracted driving and one of the most easily controlled. Erie found that it accounted for about 2% of their data. The easiest way to control this is to simply not eat or drink while driving. Meals can be had before driving. For longer trips, the smartest thing to do is just to pull over and stop to eat.

Adjusting vehicle device controls Similarly, about 1% of the time the distracted driving was caused by adjusting mirrors, windows, and locks. The easiest way to remove this cause is to make sure seats and mirrors are properly adjusted before the car is moving. If they need to be readjusted, doing so while at a stop sign or red light is the time to do it – not while driving.

Moving an object in vehicle Also about 1% of the time, distracted driving was caused by objects moving within the vehicle. Usually, this encompasses pets, insects, or cargo that moves suddenly, distracting the driver. The easiest fix for this is to make sure everything is secure before driving and pulling over if things need to be readjusted.

Smoking-related The last major cause that Erie found was smoking-related, which also occurred about 1% of the time. This includes the actual act of smoking, ashing, and lighting up. The safest way to reduce this risk if you must have a cigarette while driving is to light before moving and making sure your ashtray is open fully so you don’t need to look away to find it as often.

Call a Ft. Lauderdale Auto Accident Attorney Today!

If you or a loved one has been injured in an automobile accident, call a Florida accident attorney today for a free consultation. Florida law allows victims to recover compensation for injuries and other losses they may experience as a result of an auto accident. A lawyer familiar with litigating these types of cases can often help victims recover substantially more than they would be able to on their own. Contact The Law Office of Joseph J. LoRusso, PA at 954-715-3260 today for a free consultation.