"Lost in Thought" Drivers Cause More Accidents than Those Using Mobile Phones, Says Study

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Latest police data in the United States reveal some surprising statistics. It seems that the use of mobile phones while driving, blamed by many as one of the leading causes of traffic accidents, is not as harmful as being “lost in thought” or simply put, daydreaming.

Ten percent of fatal auto accidents in the States involved at least one motorist who was distracted, according to a statement by Erie Insurance Group that analyzed 2010 and 2011 national crash data from NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System. The causes of the distraction in 62 percent of the cases was daydreaming and being “lost in thought”, with mobile phone use being blamed in only 12 percent of the accidents caused by distracted drivers.

“The results were disturbing,” Doug Smith, senior vice president of personal lines at Erie, said in a statement. His company advises drivers to let incoming calls go to voicemail and to pull over when writing or reading text messages.

As for daydreaming or lost in thought drivers, The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety advises them to remain focused on the road by playing the “what if” game and asking themselves how they would react if something unexpected were to happen (see this video, for example).

The foundation also advises motorists to identify and overcome any diversions that are responsible for daydreaming. “Treat driving as a complicated task requiring your full attention. Remember 20 complex decisions are needed for every mile you drive,” the foundation wrote on its website.

Rubbernecking, talking with other people in the car, eating and moving an object in the vehicle, such as a pet, are cited by Erie Insurance Group among the biggest distractions for drivers. We're curious - and this stays between us - how many of you do similar things while driving and what are the things that distract you behind the wheel?

By Dan Mihalascu

Story References: Bloomberg

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