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Distracted Drivers: More than One Cause

The weather is a major reason given for driver distraction
Photo: Nokian
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Daniel Rufiange
Surprise, it's not technology that’s the biggest cause of distraction

Distracted driving is a common phenomenon in the modern automotive world, but the causes go beyond the obvious, as shown by the results of a new study carried out by the research group 

It's worth noting that while the survey polled American and Australian drivers, there’s no reason to think the figures would be very different right here in Canada. 

The study group surveyed 1,000 people - 750 in the U.S. and 250 in Australia - to find out if they had ever had an accident caused by distracted driving. They also sought to determine the most common factors that caused drivers to get distracted at the wheel.

Distracted driving, still a dangerously common phenomenon
Distracted driving, still a dangerously common phenomenon
Photo: CAA (bernardbodo)

Distracted driving: accidents are inevitable
Here is an alarming statistic revealed by the study: four out of five American drivers (81 percent, to be exact) have been involved in an accident due to distracted driving. 

That's a lot. And it shows just how many motorists let themselves be distracted, rather than concentrating on their primary task: driving safely. 

No less than 59 percent of Americans (who were driving, or not) reported having been involved in or injured in a car accident due to distracted driving. 

What's more, 13 percent of drivers also reported that their vehicle had been declared a total loss following a distracted-driving related accident.

Distractions at the wheel include the weather
Distractions at the wheel include the weather
Photo: D.Boshouwers

The weather? Yes, the weather
When asked which distractions caused incidents and road accidents they were involved in, a surprising 41 percent of respondents pointed at weather conditions. This was followed by eating or drinking (33 percent) and dealing with children or pets (32 percent).

Technology, not without blame
When asked whether or not smart technologies have affected their attention on the road, 21 percent of American motorists reported they felt hindered by technologies when behind the wheel. 

For parents buying their teenage or young adult children a car, it’s worth then keeping in mind its technologies. Young and inexperienced drivers will need to take time to get accustomed to those technologies, such as sensors, reversing cameras, navigation and on-board applications.

Finally, not too surprisingly, 74 percent of American drivers admit having used a mobile phone at least once while driving.

A Mitsubishi Triton on the road, in Australia
A Mitsubishi Triton on the road, in Australia
Photo: Mitsubishi

Australia, not so different
On the other side of the planet, meanwhile, the study’s results were… remarkably similar. Human behaviour is what it is, evidently. 

79 percent of Australian drivers have been involved in an accident due to distracted driving. In 45 percent of cases, respondents (drivers and non-drivers) reported having been involved in an accident attributable to driver distraction. 

And much like in the U.S., the weather seems to distract many. Again, outside conditions are the main cause of distracted driving among Australians, as declared by 42 percent of drivers. After weather conditions come distractions linked to the presence of children or pets (35 percent), the presence of other passengers in the car (30 percent) and eating or drinking while driving (26 percent).

Technologies were the given culprit reported by 21 percent of Australian motorists involved in a distracted-driver-related incident. 

It would, of course, have been interesting to have a Canadian component to this study, but given the similarities between our market and the U.S., we can imagine that our results would have been similar. 

So, what can we do to improve our results? Continue to hammer home the message that driving requires concentration at ALL times. It's not a time or place for eating, texting, cuddling animals, etc.

Daniel Rufiange
Daniel Rufiange
Automotive expert
  • Over 17 years' experience as an automotive journalist
  • More than 75 test drives in the past year
  • Participation in over 250 new vehicle launches in the presence of the brand's technical specialists