Car crashes have all sorts of causes: speed, alcohol, poor lighting, defective brakes, etc. – the list goes on and on. But far and away the most dangerous drivers on the road are those who aren’t paying attention.

A 2006 study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests that nearly 80% of all crashes and 65% of all near crashes occurred within three seconds of some form of driver distraction.

Think about that. That statistic means that for every car you see rear-ended on the side of the road, a mere three seconds before impact, one of the drivers was text messaging a friend, putting on make-up, changing a CD, or eating a sandwich.

The study monitored the behavior of 241 drivers in 100 vehicles for over a year. During that time, the drivers drove over 2 million miles, were involved in 82 crashes, and were “nearly involved” in 761 more crashes. On average, that means that one in three participants were involved in a car crash. More shockingly, however, each driver was “nearly involved” in 3.5 accidents over the 12 month course of the study.

The most dangerous time in a car was when the driver reached for an object in the car. Reaching for a moving object, like a cell phone sliding across the passenger seat, multiplied the crash and near-crash rate by nine. Reading, putting on makeup, or dialing a cell phone also tripled the risk of crashing or nearly crashing.

Driving drowsy was also a problem, as drivers who were tired behind the wheel were four times as likely to be involved in a car accident than drivers who were awake and alert.

In Florida, there are 3,374 fatalities on the road each year. Over 1,000 of these fatalities are linked to alcohol and drunk drivers. Others are due to sheer driver inattention.

How to Decrease Crashes

One of the main purposes of the study was to propose some ideas for decreasing the number of annual crashes and fatalities on America’s highways. While technological advances like seatbelts, air bags, electronic stability control, and collapsible steering wheels have come a long way towards the goal of fewer fatalities, today’s automobiles also travel at a much higher rate of speed than those in our parents and grand-parents generations.

The data from this study suggest that one way to greatly decrease the number of fatalities (or simply your own risk of being involved in an accident) is to encourage drivers to pay more attention to what they’re doing. We’re all accustomed to the “auto-pilot” nature of driving to pick up the kids from soccer practice or going to the grocery store. Since these every day activities have become part of our routine, it can be hard to pay attention to some of the mundane details. But paying attention behind the wheel can save your life and the lives of others.

 

If you have been in an accident caused by an inattentive driver, contact the law office of David Benenfeld for a free initial consultation.