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Distracted driving is often caused by daydreaming

Most of the distracted driving accidents that took place in New Jersey and around the country during the last five years were caused by motorists who were daydreaming, according to a study released on April 3 by Erie Insurance. The Pennsylvania-based company says that the findings, which contradict the generally accepted view that the surge in distracted driving is being caused by cellphone use, are in line with the results of a similar study conducted five years ago.

After scrutinizing data about motor vehicle accidents that claimed the lives of 172,000 road users, the Erie Insurance researchers concluded that cellphone use was only a factor in 14 percent of the distracted driving crashes. The researchers determined that distraction played a role in about 10 percent of all traffic fatalities, and daydreaming emerged as the chief road safety danger. Motorists who were lost in thought caused 61 percent of the fatal accidents studied, and the researchers believe that the figures may not be telling the whole story.

The research team used accident data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System to complete the distracted driving study, but this information may be incomplete because it is heavily reliant on police accident reports. Distraction is generally listed as the cause of an accident only when the evidence is overwhelming or motorists admit that they took their eyes off the road, which is something that few drivers are eager to confess to after causing a fatal accident.

When police reports fail to reach any firm conclusions about the cause of an accident that may have involved driver distraction, experienced personal injury attorneys may perform additional investigations. The vehicles involved could be inspected to find out if their drivers took evasive action before crashing, and attorneys may also check social media profiles and online activity to determine whether or not cellphone use may have played a role.

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

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