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Study finds daydreaming a major factor in distracted driving

Drivers in Texas with their heads in the clouds may be more dangerous than if they have cellphones in their hands. Erie Insurance examined five years of data from the nationwide database of deadly motor vehicle accidents called the Fatality Analysis Reporting System. The database includes the cause of the accident as reported by law enforcement. Around one out of every 10 people of the 172,000 who died in traffic accidents in that time period were in a crash in which distracted driving was a factor.

However, most of the distraction reported was simply people who let their minds wander while behind the wheel with 61 percent of fatalities involving a person who said that was the reason their attention was not on the road. By comparison, cellphone usage was blamed in just 14 percent of distracted driving fatalities.

The mostly monotonous task of driving itself is to blame to some degree. It is normal for human attention to flag during such an activity. While experts say that autonomous cars will improve the accident rate by eliminating crashes that occur because of these types of human error, there is evidence that semi-autonomous cars make drivers even less alert. The Tesla Autopilot includes alerts for drivers, and some companies plan to install eye-tracking software to monitor driver attention.

Whether they are caused by distracted driving or some other careless behavior, motor vehicle accidents can leave other drivers, passengers, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists seriously injured even if the accident is not fatal. The injured people might be eligible for compensation from the at-fault driver if the accident was the result of negligence. The driver's insurance company might offer too little, but it may be possible to get more compensation with an attorney taking the lead.

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