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Study Finds Daydreaming to be Major Cause of Fatal Car Accidents

Casper, Meadows, Schwartz & Cook

Data Shows That Daydreaming Is the Most Dangerous Distraction Drivers Face

tired woman daydreaming while drivingCalifornia's laws against distracted driving are among the most comprehensive in the nation, and enforcement of these laws is often just as thorough.

Texting while driving and using a handheld cellphone while driving are illegal, but it is important to remember that these aren't the only sources of distraction behind the wheel. Recently, one insurance company released a report showing that among 172,000 car accident fatalities in recent years, 1 in every 10 were attributed to distracted driving. Further analysis revealed 10 common types of distraction involved in these fatal crashes.

Erie Insurance Study

The company, named Erie Insurance, examined 2012-2016 data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, which is a car accident database maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. After analyzing the data, the insurer found that cellphone use accounted for only 14% of distracted driving accident fatalities.

Daydreaming or being "lost in thought" was the most common distraction, and accounted for 61% of car accident deaths. Other distractions accounted for small percentages of the accidents. These included:

  • Eating/drinking, adjusting settings on the dashboard (1% each)
  • Reaching for something in the car (2%)
  • Adjusting a necessary car component like rearview mirrors or a navigation system (1%)
  • "Rubbernecking" at a person, object or event outside the car (6%)
  • Talking to or looking at other passengers in the car (5%)

How Do You Prevent Daydreaming While Driving?

Zoning out or daydreaming while driving is something that affects most drivers. This may be especially common among commuters who drive a long distance to get to work each day or drivers who work long shifts and are often required to drive while fatigued. Daydreaming may also be a common occurrence among road-trippers and long-haul truck drivers. Here are some quick tips to help you avoid zoning out while driving:

  1. Avoid driving at night, especially when fatigued
  2. Try taking a new route to work instead of taking the same route every day
  3. Avoid driving while tired; if needed, pull over to the side of the road and take a quick power nap before driving any further
  4. Do not drive after drinking; even if you are under the legal limit, alcohol may cause you to relax and take your mind off the road
  5. Try to stay aware of when you are zoning out or daydreaming and get better and pulling your attention back to the road
  6. If you're taking a long road trip, take a short coffee break or bathroom stop to give your brain a break from the road
  7. Some evidence has shown that meditating (not while driving) can help you get better at controlling your mind and directing your attention where it is needed at the moment

Mind wandering can take place most often when a driver is bored or tired. Take frequent breaks and don't push yourself to keep driving beyond when you should. By taking steps to limit daydreaming while driving, you may save a life.

Take Responsibility to Prevent Distracted Driving!

Humans are creatures of habit. Unfortunately, this often causes us to mentally "check out" when we're behind the wheel or to focus our attention on things other than the task at hand. All California drivers should reexamine their own driving habits to see what their biggest source of distraction is. Laws against distracted driving are a good thing, but we must each make the choice to stay focused and distraction-free each time we get into the driver's seat.

If you are ever injured by a distracted driver, our legal team at Casper, Meadows, Schwartz & Cook can help you get back on your feet. Call today to get started.

Source: Erie Insurance, "Erie Insurance releases police data showing daydreaming #1 on top 10 list of fatal distracted driving behaviors," April 3, 2018

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