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Top 10 Causes of Fatal Distracted Driving Crashes


April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

You’re driving. You hear that familiar noise notifying you of a new text message, so you grab your phone to see what it says. The radio goes to commercial, so you take your hand off the wheel to switch stations. There’s an event outside, so you glance over to see what’s going on.

Actions like these may only take seconds to do, but they lead to over 3,000 deaths and 400,000 injuries each year.

Drivers face many distractions on the road. Distracted drivers not only risk hitting another car, but they also risk hitting a pedestrian or property.

Erie Insurance conducted a study of police report data to discover the top 10 causes of fatal distracted driving crashes. The findings and the percentage of crashes caused by that distraction are listed below. Note that since the data is based on police officers’ judgment, the numbers are difficult to verify. Some drivers may not tell police that they were distracted at the time of the crash.

10) Smoking-Related Behaviors – 1%

Smoking-related behaviors include smoking, lighting a cigarette and tapping away the ashes. Even though fewer Americans smoke cigarettes than ever before, smoking still contributes to distracted driving crashes.

Smoking while driving is hazardous because it involves taking your hand off the wheel. The process of lighting and smoking a cigarette can take time. This means your hand will be off of the wheel for several minutes. It will be more difficult to react to situations on the road with a cigarette in your hand.

99020779” by Tina Franklin is licensed under CC BY 2.0

9) Moving Objects in Vehicle (such as a pet or insect) – 1%

Your first reaction after seeing a bug is probably to swat it away or kill it. (Or maybe you carefully pick it up with a tissue and let it free.) But, these things are dangerous to do if you’re driving. In fact, one girl caused a four-car crash that injured 11 people when she tried to kill a spider while driving.

If you see a bug or if your pet is bothering you, pull over if it is safe to do so and address the situation. Even if you’re terrified of bugs, taking the time to deal with the spider in a calm manner is better than getting into a crash.


8) Using Device/Controls Integral to Vehicle (adjusting seat, mirrors) – 1%

If someone else drove your car last, you might have to adjust your seat and mirrors to the proper position. Make sure you do this before you drive, as it is unsafe to do on the road.

7) Adjusting Audio or Climate Controls – 2%

Between annoying commercials and songs you don’t like, you may find yourself switching the radio station several times during a car ride. But, adjusting the radio is a distraction.

Combat this distraction by creating a playlist on your phone. Or, if you have a passenger, give him or her control of the music.

6) Eating or Drinking – 2%

It’s hard to resist the french fries you just bought from the fast food drive-thru. But, taking your hand off the wheel to eat or drink is risky. Fight the urge and wait until you get home.

If you’re on a long road trip, eat at a rest stop or picnic area. It’s better to be a few minutes behind schedule than try to eat a sandwich while driving.


Distracted Eating” by frankieleon is licensed under CC BY 2.0

5) Reaching for or Using Device Brought into Vehicle (such as a navigational device, headphones) – 2%

Reaching for or using a device like a GPS or headphones is dangerous. Even if you’re at a red light, your foot could slip off the brake as you stretch your arm to grab an item in the glove compartment. Make sure these items are easily accessible and navigational devices are programmed before you start driving.

4) Other Occupants in the Car (talking to or looking at passengers) – 5%

Passengers in the car can be a distraction. Whether it’s a crying child, noisy adults, or a frantic pet, other occupants can take your focus off driving.

In some cases, it’s helpful to have a person in the passenger seat. This person can control the radio and input directions into the GPS. It also means there’s another set of eyes on the road. But, having a conversation with a passenger can also be distracting. Be sure to stay alert when other occupants are in the car.

3) Looking at Something Outside the Car (Rubbernecking) – 7%

As humans, we’re naturally curious. But if you’re checking out the person jogging or looking at the new stores under construction, you’re not paying attention to the road ahead of you. Looking away from the road is unsafe.

2) Cell Phone Use – 12%

Many states have laws prohibiting texting while driving. But, 36% of drivers admitted to texting while driving in 2015. Texting is dangerous because it involves taking your eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, and mind off the task of driving.

Whether you’re texting, talking, or browsing the Internet, using a cell phone while driving is hazardous. Even hands-free devices distract drivers.

And the #1 Cause of Distracted Driving Crashes is…

1) Lost in Thought (Daydreaming) – 62%

It’s easy for your mind to wander, especially during long drives. But when you’re daydreaming about your upcoming beach vacation, it may take longer for your brain to realize that the car in front of you just braked.

Even though your hands are on the wheel and your eyes are on the road, your thoughts are not on driving. Your reaction time will be slower as you take your focus away from your daydream and bring it back to the task of driving. Those few seconds could be the difference between rear-ending the car in front of you and stopping in time.


Philadelphia Distracted Driving Accident Attorneys

There are some other causes of fatal distracted driving crashes as well. Distracted driving crashes are so devastating because they could have been prevented had the driver been paying attention. If you or a loved one was hurt in a crash caused by a distracted driver, you need an experienced attorney on your side.

If you or a loved one was hurt in a crash caused by a distracted driver, you need an experienced attorney on your side. A distracted driving accident lawyer at Kane & Silverman will fight for your rights. Do not hesitate to contact us at 215-232-1000 or fill out our online contact form for a free evaluation. We have offices in Philadelphia, PA and Marlton, NJ where you can speak with our auto accident attorneys.