A recent report published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) determined that 1 in 10 of the more than 65,000 car crash-related fatalities that occurred during 2010 and 2011 were caused by distracted driving. While everyone is aware, if not mindful, of the fact that cell phone use is a major problem in causing distracted driving, you might be surprised at the top 10 list of driver distractions most likely to cause a fatal accident. Erie  Insurance Company  of Erie, Pennsylvania recently conducted an analysis of NHTSA crash reports, which served as the basis for the report. Doug Smith, Erie senior vice president of personal lines, noted that: “Distracted driving is any activity that takes your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, or your mind off your primary task of driving safely.” Smith continued, “We looked at what law enforcement officers across the country reported when they filled out reports on fatal crashes and the results were disturbing.”

I was surprised to learn that “lost in thought”, what you might call simple daydreaming, was far and away the leading cause of all distracted driver – related traffic fatalities, with the NHTSA reporting it at 62%. I wasn’t surprised to learn that cell phone use – talking, listening, dialing, texting – was the second highest cause of driver distraction leading to a fatal accident, at 12%. Paying attention to an outside person, object or event was third, at 7%, while interacting with other occupants was 5%. Using or reaching for a device in the vehicle, such as a portable GPS system or headphones, was 2%, as was eating or drinking, and adjusting audio or climate control. Coming in at 1% were the following three distractions: operating other in-vehicle devices (adjusting the mirrors, seats or  using in-dash navigation system), moving an object in the vehicle, such as an insect or unrestrained pet, and smoking-related activity, such as smoking, lighting up, or putting ashes in an ashtray.

10 states and the District of Columbia currently prohibit all motorists from using hand-held cell phones while operating a motor vehicle, and 39 states forbid text messaging, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association in Washington DC. Unfortunately, the presence of legislation does not seem to be a significant deterrent to motorists, since more than two thirds (69%) of all licensed motorists recently surveyed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety in Washington DC admitted to using a cell phone during the previous month, while more than a third (35%) said they read the text or e-mail while driving.

Stark & Stark is a zealous advocate for traffic safety, and we urge you to leave your cell phone in your purse or pocket, and focus your full attention on the road while driving. No phone call or text is so important that it justifies placing lives in danger. At Stark and Stark, we are proud of our efforts on behalf of  the victims of distracted driving. If you or a loved one have been seriously injured as a result of someone else’s distracted driving, called Stark & Stark for a free case evaluation and consultation.