More Traffic Fatalities Caused by Distraction than Alcohol

Apr 2020

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Distraction at the wheel

Drivers who make telephone calls, send text messages, enter travel destinations, or use the audio system put themselves and others in danger. The experts at DEKRA urgently recommend focusing your full attention on driving while at the wheel and refraining from secondary activities of any kind. “The requirements of driving a car are complex, but people can do different things at once only to a very limited extent,” says Luigi Ancona, accident researcher at DEKRA. “Studies on distraction while driving show: Multitasking at the wheel doesn’t work. Full concentration is demanded at all times. Anything else is much too dangerous.”

For example, a study from the USA comes to the conclusion that drivers who use their cellphones are involved in accidents around four times more frequently than those who do not. According to the Allianz Center for Technology, distraction is the cause of one in ten fatal accidents. In other words: Distraction causes more traffic fatalities than alcohol. “No driver would willingly shut their eyes for several seconds while driving,” says accident researcher Ancona. “However, looking at your smartphone while driving has exactly the same effect: You travel many meters while not looking. At 50 km/h, you are traveling 28 meters in 2 seconds; at 80 km/h, you travel 44 meters in the same amount of time.”

A traffic observation by DEKRA Accident Research with more than 15,000 car drivers across Germany showed the topicality of the problem as early as 2017: On average, 7% of drivers were being distracted from driving by their cellphones at any given time. Preoccupation with one’s cellphone was the most frequent of the observed types of distraction. Other types of distraction also included eating and drinking and using a navigation device or the radio. That is because making phone calls and reading or sending text messages are not the only things that increase the risk of having an accident while driving. Other secondary activities can cause drivers to find themselves in the way of oncoming traffic or in the roadside ditch before they know it – whether they are using a navigation device, reaching for a drink or trying to play music, arguing with the passenger, or turning to face the children on the back seats. “Even making phone calls using hands-free equipment can require too much attention during difficult conversations and cause too much of a distraction from driving,” warns DEKRA accident researcher Ancona.

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