NORTHEAST OHIO (WOIO) - This may surprise some, but the number one distraction associated with deadly car crashes isn't smart phones -- it's daydreaming.
Of the more than 172,000 people killed in car crashes over the past five years, one in 10 involved distracted drivers.
Of those distracted drivers, 61 percent were daydreaming at the time of the fatal crash, compared with just 14 percent of drivers who were distracted by cell phone use like texting.
This is according to national police data analyzed by Erie Insurance, timed to coordinate with Distracted Driving Awareness month in April.
Erie Insurance first analyzed this eyebrow-raising data five years ago and found that daydreaming still tops the list today.
"Some people see driving as a time to relax and unwind and let their minds drift off, but that's actually one of the worst things you can do," said Jon Bloom, vice president of personal auto, Erie Insurance in a prepared statement. "Most people know about the dangers of texting while driving, but daydreaming while driving is an almost invisible distraction – people do it automatically without realizing the risk."
Paul Atchley, Ph.D., an internationally recognized cognitive behavioral researcher has offered these tips to help drivers keep their attention on the road:
- Don't replace boredom with a distraction. For example, never send or read a text to alleviate boredom. Instead, play verbal road games that help you focus, like "I Spy." Make it even more effective by saying "I Spy a Distracted Driver" which will help your mind focus even more on the road and defensive driving.
- Keep your hazard perception skills sharp. This means knowing where to look on the road ahead and watching for situations that may require you to take an action, such as changing speed or direction. Examples include a car entering an intersection or a pedestrian crossing the road.
- Consider carpooling with another experienced driver. Just as professional truck drivers sometimes enlist a partner to share the driving duties, Dr. Atchley says having a co-driver can also work for everyday people. Another experienced driver sitting in the passenger seat next to you can serve as a second set of eyes. And, engaging in light conversation while you're both looking at the road ahead can help keep your mind alert.
Below are the top 10 distractions involved in fatal car crashes (Rank / Distraction Type / Percentage of):
1. Generally distracted or "lost in thought" (daydreaming) 61%
2. Cell phone use (talking, listening, dialing, texting) 14%
3. Outside person, object or event, such as "rubbernecking" (observing accidents) 6%
4. Other occupants (talking with or looking at other people in car) 5%
5. Using or reaching for device brought into vehicle, such as navigational device, headphones 2%
6. Adjusting audio or climate controls 1%
7. Eating or drinking 1%
8. Using other device/controls integral to vehicle, such as adjusting rear view mirrors, seats, or using OEM navigation system 1%
9. Moving object in vehicle, such as pet or insect <1%
10. Smoking related (includes smoking, lighting up, putting ashes in ashtray) <1%