Study finds being lost in thought major cause of distraction in accidents

Cell phones and other electronic devices produce a great deal of distraction while driving. You can call someone, text them, check a stock quote or the score of a game. You use them as a GPS, Google some question, shop online or even watch a movie. None of these is a good idea while driving. You are driving a projectile weighing thousands of pounds, hurtling down a highway at up to a hundred feet per second. That few seconds you glance down to check a text may be the last thing you ever do.

But there is something even more distracting than that cell phone. According to a study that looked at the 65,000 fatal motor vehicle accidents from the last two years, 62 percent of the distracted drivers where "lost in thought" when the accident occurred. Cell phones only were responsible for 12 percent of the distraction.

Of course, this study was based on information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). The number of cell phones that were involved in distracted driving accident may be underreported, since the data for FARS is drawn from police reports, and survivors may not want to admit that they were using a cellphone or other electronic device. The other data limitation is that there often is variation in how law enforcement reports aspects of a collision.

Nonetheless, it serves as a good warning to all drivers that they should focus on the job at hand, driving their vehicle in a safe manner. During April, paying attention is the best way to observe National Distracted Driving Month.

Source:, "Being "Lost in Thought" Leads to Driving Fatalities," Megan Stewart, April 4, 2013

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