January Safety Snapshot – Distracted Driving

No Distracted Driving Sign, Red stop sign with words Distracted Driving and accident icon with stormy sky background

Of the more than 65,000 people killed in motor vehicle crashes over the past two years, one in ten crashes involved at least one distracted driver, according to police report data analyzed by Erie Insurance in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), a nationwide census of fatal motor vehicle traffic crashes maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, (NHTSA). Erie Insurance consulted the NHTSA in its analysis, which pulled data from 2010 and 2011 police reports. Police listed the majority of drivers who were distracted as “generally distracted” or “lost in thought”.

“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,” explains Doug Smith, senior vice president of personal lines at Erie Insurance.

Based on their analysis, Erie Insurance listed the 10 Deadliest Driving Distractions:

10. Smoking-related, includes lighting up, the act of smoking itself, using the ashtray or putting the cigarette out. When reviewing law enforcements officers’ notes in crash reports involving at least one fatality, Erie found that 1 percent cited smoking as the distraction.

9. Moving objects (pets or insects), dog owners know the perils of an agitated or overexcited Fido all too well. About 1 percent of police reports analyzed by Erie alluded to “moving objects”.

8. Using other device or controls integral to the vehicle, virtually any activity that can take your eyes off the road for even a split-second can put the driver and others in jeopardy. Seemingly innocent behaviors, such as adjusting mirrors, seats, or using an OEM navigation system accounted for another 1 percent of fatal distractions.

7. Adjusting audio or climate controls, Two percent of distracted drivers admitted that switching radio stations or adjusting the volume or vehicle temperature led to a fatal mistake.

6. Eating or drinking, using any vehicle as a moving restaurant is risky business as well. Another two percent of distracted drivers were either eating or drinking when the fatal crash occurred.

5. Using or reaching for a device brought into the vehicle, such as a navigational device, headphones, etc. Drivers who attempted to reach for such devices accounted for another two percent as well.

4. Other vehicle occupants, talking with or looking at other people in the vehicle resulted in five percent of distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes.

3. Outside person, object or event (such as rubbernecking), it’s difficult to resist temptation to gawk at off-road drama or post wreck cleanup, but 7 percent of the distracted drivers in Erie’s report should have.

2. Cell phone use (talking, listening, dialing, texting), a slew of legislation has been aimed to deter operating a cell phone while driving. Several states and municipalities have banned the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. It’s against the law in the city of Missoula to use a hand held device while driving.

Text messaging while driving (TWD) specifically is one of the most dangerous distractions and is illegal in 39 states. Many young adult drivers erroneously believe they can safely TWD but the numbers indicate otherwise. This offense accounted for 12 percent of fatal driving distractions in Erie’s report. The national epidemic has sparked a “driving while intoxicated “public awareness campaign, after studies revealed that TWD is about six times more likely to cause an accident than driving intoxicated. The NHTSA has also likened TWD to “driving after consuming four beers.” Other sobering statistics suggest TWD causes 1,600,000 accidents per year (National Safety Council); 30,000 injuries per year (Harvard Center for Risk Analysis Study); and 11 teen deaths in the U.S. each day (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Fatality Facts). 1. Generally distracted or “lost in thought”, detaching from reality can prove useful when recharging creative energies or simply taking

Other sobering statistics suggest TWD causes 1,600,000 accidents per year (National Safety Council); 30,000 injuries per year (Harvard Center for Risk Analysis Study); and 11 teen deaths in the U.S. each day (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Fatality Facts). 1. Generally distracted or “lost in thought”, detaching from reality can prove useful when recharging creative energies or simply taking

1. Generally distracted or “lost in thought”, detaching from reality can prove useful when recharging creative energies or simply taking respite from a hectic day. However, doing so while driving can prove to be fatal. Driving “in a fog” or seemingly on autopilot is, above all, the riskiest driving behavior cited in Erie’s report. According to the insurer, daydreamers accounted for a whopping 62 percent of distracted drivers involved in road fatalities.

When we review our crashes, we’re quite sure that a “Distraction” of some type was a contributory factor in every crash. As a Professional Driver there is no place in the cab of your truck for distractions or complacency.

Be Driven By Safety!