Study concludes drivers distracted by daydreams more than phones

A monotonous daily commute or scenic drive in California both have the potential to lull drivers into a state of daydreaming. Wandering thoughts take attention off of the road, and a distracted driving study from Erie Insurance cites daydreaming as the top source of distraction. After the researchers studied 172,000 traffic deaths stored in a national database of car accidents, they found that over a five-year period, distracted driving killed 10 percent of motor vehicle accident victims.

Among those deaths, the database attributed 61 percent of them to daydreaming drivers. Only 14 percent of that segment of fatality records showed cellphone use as the underlying cause. The insurance company reported that these results have been consistent for years.

Humans naturally have trouble maintaining focus when performing dull tasks like driving. Manufacturers of self-driving cars hope to alleviate this danger with automated systems, but challenges persist. Partially autonomous vehicle systems that assist drivers unfortunately appear to make people even less attentive to their surroundings. To overcome this tendency, automakers are experimenting with eye-tracking systems that could detect when drivers stop watching the road.

Despite the difficulty of staying focused on the road, people have a legal responsibility to operate their vehicles safely. Mistakes caused by inattention might justify the payment of personal injury claims. A person hurt in a wreck caused by apparent negligence may gain support from an attorney who litigates motor vehicle accidents. A case evaluation by an attorney may reveal insurance coverage and personal assets of the negligent driver as a source of compensation. An attorney might also employ an accident reconstruction specialist to collect evidence about the crash. This information may then be used to file a lawsuit on behalf of the accident victim.