10 major causes of distracted driving

Whether you’re driving professionally or on your own time, minimizing these causes of driving distracted can help save lives

Toronto, ON (Dec. 19, 2023) – Understanding that drivers are human and can create a number of risks on the road, some tech companies and auto manufacturers are working to make self-driving cars a reality (though there has been much discussion and debate about potential dangers of this advancing technology). Until these vehicles become more proven and widely available, though, distracted driving will continue to be a major contributor to vehicle crash-related injuries and deaths.

Although states and the federal government enact and enforce laws to limit cellphone use and prohibit texting while driving, employers also have a responsibility to address causes of distracted driving in their fleets. Even where companies have policies pertaining to mobile phone use, these guidelines may not go far enough to address the full causes of distracted driving.

Whether you employ drivers or simply want to help protect employees who travel to work every day, raising awareness of common causes of distracted driving can help reduce risks … and maybe even prevent a tragedy.

Common distractions while driving:

1. Talking on cellphones

While there may be no definitive way to gauge what is the greatest cause of distracted driving accidents, the widespread detrimental impact of cellphone conversations on road safety is undeniable. According to one recent study, 34% percent of all drivers who crash interact with their phone in the minute before the crash,1 signifying such activity as among the most common distractions while driving. Despite widespread awareness about this danger, the behavior persists. Many believe that talking on the phone while driving is safe so long as one is using hands-free technology. However, as this article shows, that belief is very misguided.

2. Texting and other cellphone/smartphone manipulation

Whether texting, using social media or another app, or checking anything online via a smartphone, a few seconds with your eyes off the road could be the last mistake you make. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shares this sobering fact: “Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for five seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.”2

3. Talking with another passenger

Let’s be realistic. Whether carpooling to work or driving with friends or family, we’re going to talk with fellow passengers. There’s a plus side to having another set of eyes on traffic, but it’s negated when conversation diverts your attention from the road. Drivers and passengers need to “save it for later” when road conditions are treacherous, traffic patterns change quickly or the conversation simply diminishes the driver’s focus.

4. Moving objects/animals in the vehicle

Whether it’s a pet along for the ride, an insect flying through a window or any object that drops out of position, something moving unexpectedly can be a distraction. Further, our reflex action instinctively compels us to reach for something sliding off a seat, but the damage caused by letting that object fall will likely be far less impactful than the risks associated with not paying attention to the road. If a pet is distracting you, pull over and take measures to calm the animal, including using a cage or restraints if necessary.

5. Adjusting audio and/or climate controls

Scanning the radio to find a favorite song or program, or continuously adjusting your car’s air conditioning or heating might seem like mindless tasks, but they can keep your focus away from the road longer than you think. Set your tunes and temperature before you drive.

6. Manipulating car components and controls

It’s often important to adjust your car’s rearview and exterior mirrors, roll up the windows, adjust your seat or check a navigational device. These tasks divert attention, however, so pull over to complete them whenever possible. When it’s not possible, make sure you’re familiar enough with the motor vehicle’s controls to make adjustments while keeping your eyes on the road.

7. Reaching for an object or device

Opening the glove compartment to grab a tissue, reaching for the smartwatch you left on the passenger-side seat, or simply grabbing a package of breath mints may not take long, but whenever you reach for something, one hand is off the wheel and chances are your eyes aren’t on the road. Whatever you are reaching for can usually wait until the car is not moving.

8. “Rubbernecking”

It’s hard not to look when you pass an accident site, glimpse an injured or dead animal on the side of the road, or see anything unexpected along your route. Looking may be unavoidable, but taking your eyes off the road, even if you slow down, increases the risk of an accident. As with other distractions, crashes involving “rubbernecking” can also cause a chain reaction, as other drivers behind you may also have their attention on the accident and not on the vehicle in front of them.

9. Eating or drinking

Eating and drinking necessitates one-handed driving, and dropping food or spilling a beverage can create a serious distraction. If you must have a beverage, use a spill-free container and don’t hold it continuously. When it’s time to eat, pull off the road. You probably don’t want that mustard decorating your shirt or blouse anyway!

10. Smoking

Putting aside smoking’s other well-known health risks, smoking while driving also means one hand is frequently off the wheel. Falling cigarette ash or cinders create additional hazards. If you can’t kick the habit, at least knock it off on the road.

Zurich Resilience Solutions (ZRS) offers distracted driver solutions and driver safety trainings. Find out about these and ZRS’ other Casualty Risk Management Services.

Learn more: Zurich Commercial Casualty Insurance Solutions

For more information on distracted driving, please visit the informative sites offered by these organizations:

About Zurich

Zurich North America is one of the largest providers of insurance solutions and services to businesses and individuals. Our customers represent industries ranging from agriculture to technology. Further information is available at www.zurichna.com.

Zurich North America is part of Zurich Insurance Group, a leading multi-line insurer serving people and businesses in more than 200 countries and territories. Founded 150 years ago, Zurich is transforming insurance. In addition to providing insurance protection, Zurich is increasingly offering prevention services such as those that promote wellbeing and enhance climate resilience.

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Source: Zurich North America

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