sun shining on man driving in his vehicle with both hands on the wheel

Of the more than 172,000 people killed in car crashes over the past five years, one in 10 were in crashes where at least one of the drivers involved was distracted. These statistics come from data analyzed by Erie Insurance housed in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, a nationwide census of fatal motor vehicle traffic crashes maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Erie Insurance consulted with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in its analysis.

But distracted driving doesn’t just mean being distracted by your cell phone.  ERIE’s analysis found daydreaming or being “generally distracted” (being inattentive, careless, or distracted–details unknown) or “lost in thought” was the number one distraction associated with fatal crashes.

“Some people see driving as a time to relax and unwind and let their minds drift off, but that’s actually one of the worst things you can do,” said Jon Bloom, vice president of personal auto, Erie Insurance. “Most people know about the dangers of texting while driving, but daydreaming while driving is an almost invisible distraction – people do it automatically without even realizing the risk.”

The Erie Insurance analysis of police data from 2012-2016 showed the majority of drivers who were distracted were “generally distracted” or “lost in thought.” In fact, police report that 61 percent of distracted drivers were daydreaming at the time of a fatal crash, compared with 14 percent of drivers who were distracted by cell phone use.  Erie Insurance did a similar analysis five years ago and revisited the data to see if the types of distractions had changed over the years. The analysis found the distractions were largely the same.

Here are the top 10 distractions involved in fatal car crashes:

“Some people see driving as a time to relax and unwind and let their minds drift off, but that’s actually one of the worst things you can do,” said Jon Bloom, vice president of personal auto, Erie Insurance. “Most people know about the dangers of texting while driving, but daydreaming while driving is an almost invisible distraction – people do it automatically without even realizing the risk.”

The Erie Insurance analysis of police data from 2012-2016 showed the majority of drivers who were distracted were “generally distracted” or “lost in thought.” In fact, police report that 61 percent of distracted drivers were daydreaming at the time of a fatal crash, compared with 14 percent of drivers who were distracted by cell phone use.  Erie Insurance did a similar analysis five years ago and revisited the data to see if the types of distractions had changed over the years. The analysis found the distractions were largely the same.

Here are the top 10 distractions involved in fatal car crashes:

Bloom said that because FARS data on distraction is based largely on police officers’ judgment at the time of the crash, and because people involved in a crash may be reluctant to admit to distracted driving behaviors when being interviewed by police, the numbers are difficult to verify. And they may, in fact, under-represent the seriousness and prevalence of driving distractions.

Bloom said that because FARS data on distraction is based largely on police officers’ judgment at the time of the crash, and because people involved in a crash may be reluctant to admit to distracted driving behaviors when being interviewed by police, the numbers are difficult to verify. And they may, in fact, under-represent the seriousness and prevalence of driving distractions.