Oklahoma residents may be aware that the increase in distracted driving accidents has largely been blamed on the proliferation of smartphones and other electronic devices, but a study released by Erie Insurance suggests that drivers who daydream or become lost in thought while behind the wheel may be a far more serious road safety hazard. The Pennsylvania-based insurer determined that distraction was the cause of about 10 percent of America's road fatalities over the last five years, but cellphone use was cited as the distracting influence only 14 percent of the time.
Daydreaming or allowing one's mind to wander was determined to have distracted drivers 61 percent of the time according to information gathered from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, but the researchers were quick to point out that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's database may not be revealing the full scale of the problem. The researchers say this because it relies on police reports and distracted drivers are rarely keen to admit to their negligent behavior.
Auto manufacturers are attempting to mitigate the damage done by distracted drivers by developing autonomous systems that can take over in emergency situations, but some studies have found that these safety features encourage complacency and can actually make the roads even more dangerous. Other safety systems address distraction by tracking eye movements and vibrating or letting out an audible warning when drivers take their eyes off the road ahead.
Prosecutors must prove criminal charges beyond reasonable doubt, but the standard of proof in civil actions is not as strict. Those who have suffered harm in car accidents must only convince the court that their allegations are more likely true than not, and experienced personal injury attorneys may seek to do this in distracted driving cases by establishing that the defendant took no evasive action before crashing.
Source: Erie Insurance, "Erie Insurance releases police data showing daydreaming #1 on top 10 list of fatal distracted driving behaviors", Press release, April 3, 2018