Car Crash Study Provides Insight Into Distracted Driving


A newly-released study by Virginia Tech Transportation Institute offers a valuable look into the distractions that lead to motor vehicle accidents. The study illustrates that some known distractions are really not all that risky while others actually are quite dangerous.

The study’s lead author, Tom Dingus, explained that the study’s findings are so important because of the next generation of drivers; teenagers show a greater tendency to drive while engaging in distracting activities. Those behind the study hope the data will help policymakers, law enforcement, and vehicle designers appreciate and design countermeasures for the risk.

Researchers studies crashes first-hand

Rather than simply studying police reports for a glimpse of an accident after-the-fact, the Virginia Tech study gathered crash information from the point of view of the driver as the accidents were happening. It used cameras, sensors, and radar placed in study participants’ vehicles to record the sights and sounds in the vehicles as the collisions took place.

The more than 3,500 participating vehicles wired for data-gathering cumulatively travelled more than 35 million miles. The study captured data on more than 1,600 crashes that ranged from low severity to serious and for purposes of the current analysis, the researchers focused on 905 higher severity crashes to uncover the driver-related causes.

The study was novel because of the high number of serious crashes for which it provided information. Earlier studies were so small that they needed to include numbers from “near crashes” or minor accidents. The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study, however, offers more conclusive insights into the risks that drivers undertake.

Driver distractions: some expected, some surprising

The study showed that factors related to the driver played a part in nearly 9 out of 10 crashes. As might be expected, some of the contributing causes include fatigue, distraction, and impairment.

Drivers are nearly 10 times more likely to be involved in a crash when driving in an emotionally-charged state. Drivers are also, understandably, more likely to be in a crash when using or reaching for a cell phone or doing any other activity that takes their eyes off the road.

Researchers were surprised to find that other behaviors that have generally been understood to lead to crashes, like applying makeup while driving, were not actually shown to increase the risk of an accident. A driver interacting with a child in the back seat even lowered the crash risk.

Liability issues in car accidents

Personal injury lawyers at The Sanders Firm hope that the knowledge gained from the study will help those with authority implement measures to cut down on distracted driving accidents. However, there will always be victims left behind by these crashes. The law is on their side and compensation may be available to help with expenses during this difficulty. Victims or impacted family members owe it to themselves to talk to an experienced lawyer as soon as possible to determine whether litigation is the right path to choose.

If you or someone you love was injured by a distracted driver, you may have grounds to file a car accident lawsuit. Contact The Sanders Firm at 1.800.FAIR.PLAY for a free evaluation of your case. ResourcesScience Daily, Some distractions while driving more risky than others, researchers say,