Three Origins of Distracted Driving

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey, in which they examined the origin of 6,950 car crashes over a three-year period. It was discovered that 41 percent of the collisions were the result of a distracted driver. Events occurring just before impact caused the person behind the wheel to fail to properly surveying the area and recognize potential hazards. Moreover, the diversion stopped them from knowing when, and how, to maneuver the vehicle to provide safety. In all, the driver made a conscious decision to be distracted about 20 percent of the time. External interruptions accounted for an additional 69 percent of collisions, and activities inside the vehicle made up the remaining 11 percent. External Interruptions Events that occur outside the vehicle are usually out of the driver's control. However, he or she is still responsible for maintaining focus, regardless of external forces. Drivers are routinely distracted by other accidents on the road. This causes traffic to slow as drivers "rubber-neck" emergency services and in the aftermath, secondary collisions may occur. This is also a common occurrence in construction zones. Attention may also be distracted by billboards, pedestrians, animals and other roadside attractions too. Internal Disturbances Although things going on inside a vehicle can't always be avoided, the operator has some control over how he or she responds to it. For instance, caretakers commonly tend to children while on the road. While they may be caught off guard by a dispute between kids in the back seat, or a crying baby, it's their duty to pull over until order is restored, and they can focus on the road again. Other common issues that occur inside the vehicle and create distraction include chatting with passengers, attending to pets, putting on makeup and technology. Operator Inattention When the operator of a vehicle chooses to be unfocused, it's especially disheartening. Unlike internal and external disruptions, the person makes a decision to divert attention away from the road. Cell phone use makes up the largest portion of collisions caused by operator inattention. The National Safety Council estimates 1.6 million car accidents happen every year because someone used a smartphone, made a call, or texted while behind the wheel. They also noted that texting while driving increases the risk of a collision eight-times over. Other common actions people opt to do behind the wheel that diverts their attention away from the road include: grooming, eating, examining maps, using a GPS, watching videos, adjusting music, driving while tired or daydreaming.

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