Norwalk Reflector: Distracted driving a 'serious problem'

Distracted driving a 'serious problem'

Zoe Greszler • Mar 6, 2019 at 2:00 AM

A review of national police data shows that Saturdays are the biggest days for fatal car crashes involving distracted driving caused by daydreams.

Specifically, Saturdays in September are the worst, while Tuesdays in February have the lowest rates. A previous analysis found that being “generally distracted” or “lost in thought” — otherwise known as daydreaming — is the No. 1 distraction noted in fatal crashes.

The data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), which includes information from police reports on the causes of fatal car crashes and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, showed that Saturdays in general were the most popular days to daydream while driving.

February seems to be the least inspirational month — coming up as the least likely time to daydream. 

“We released this data to raise awareness of the ongoing need to combat distracted driving in all its forms, whether it’s texting while driving, or simply letting your mind wander behind the wheel,” said Jon Bloom, vice president of personal auto, Erie Insurance.

Erie Insurance released the data to promote Distracted Driving Awareness Month which is in April.

Locally, while no fatal crashes were reported to have been caused by distracted driving throughout the county, 57 other accidents were. Since January 2018, the county has see seven distracted-driving crashes that have caused serious injuries, six causing minor injuries, nine with possible injuries. Another 35, while they didn’t involve any injuries, resulted in property damage.

“No matter what day of the week or what month it is, we urge all drivers at all times to keep their eyes on the road, their hands on the wheel, and their attention on what they are doing,” Bloom added.

The most recent the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data shows 3,166 people were killed in distracted driving crashes in 2017.

According to FARS’ data based on fatal crashes occurring around the nation from 2013 to 2017, the most and least common day dreaming days are listed below:

Top five days/months for fatal daydreaming-while-driving crashes:

1. Saturdays in September

2. Saturdays in May

3. Fridays in October

4. Saturdays in August

5. Fridays in July

Bottom five days/months for fatal daydreaming while driving crashes

1. Sundays in December

2. Thursdays in February

3. Mondays in January

4. Wednesdays in February

5. Tuesdays in February

The FARS data is based largely on police officers’ judgment at the time of a crash and interviews with those involved.

“It’s not clear why people would be more likely to daydream while driving on certain days or in certain months over others,” Bloom said. “Regardless, we think the data is worth sharing if it gets people talking about the serious problem of distracted driving and how to avoid it.”

In the state Highway Patrol’s accident reports, Sgt. Evan Stevens said there isn’t an option allowing patrolmen to select “daydreaming” specifically as an accident's cause, however, he said the number of distracted drivers could be alarming and appear to mostly be caused by technology.

“Cell phones are a large distraction,” Stevens said. “Whether its a distraction from the cell phone ringing, texting, utilizing its GPS on their phone, a lot of the distractions are from technology and cell phones — those inside distractions.”

That’s not to say it’s the only distraction that local drivers experience. Stevens also warned against the distraction of using other electronic devices such as an iPod or GPS while driving, as well non-electronic distractions.

“A distraction could be anything,” he said,” changing our your CD, changing the radio station, looking in your center console, papers blowing around on the seat. With today’s times though, obviously, cellphone usage is a big one. A lot of people affiliate texting and driving with only when you’re actively driving down the road. A lot of people don’t realize that’s a distraction (and can cause accidents) to be texting while at a stop sign or light.”

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