Groundbreaking Study Identifies Greatest Crash-Risk Factors

A major study has revealed that distracted driving is both highly prevalent and highly dangerous.

A recently released study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute has quantified both the risk and the prevalence of various dangerous driving behaviors, according to Medical Xpress. The groundbreaking study involved 3,500 participants and data taken from 1,600 verified motor vehicle accidents to create one of the most accurate pictures yet available for determining what driving behaviors are most likely to lead to an accident. Perhaps not surprisingly, the study found that distracted driving, especially distracted driving caused by cellphone use, was highly prevalent and also significantly increased the likelihood of a crash occurring.

Largest Study into Crash Risks

The study is the largest ever conducted to use real-world driving data. Other studies have tended to rely on indirect sources of information, such as police reports and witness testimony, which can be unreliable for determining what actually led to an accident. Other studies have relied on driving simulators, which do not always give an accurate picture of driving behavior since participants are aware that they are not actually in a real-world situation.

For this study, participants' driving behavior was monitored for between one to two years using a variety of instruments, including cameras, sensors, and radars. Because there were 3,500 participants, researchers had a large mountain of data from which they could base their conclusions about which driving behaviors were the riskiest.

Impaired and Distracted Driving

As Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Spectrum notes, certain driving behaviors stood out for being extremely dangerous. Not surprisingly, impaired driving increased the risk of a crash occurring (compared with someone who was driving while sober, rested, and alert) by nearly 36 times, more than any other risk factor. Reading and writing (such as on tablets) and strong emotions while driving were also incredibly risky, increasing the chances of an accident happening by nearly 10 times.

However, while impairment, reading, writing, and emotion were all considered highly dangerous, they were also relatively rare driving behaviors. Impaired driving, for example, occurred in only 0.08 percent of cases studied. The riskiest behavior, in terms of combining both crash-risk with prevalence, was using a handheld cellphone while driving, which not only increased the risk of a crash happening by 3.6 times but was also a factor in 6.4 percent of cases studied. Furthermore, the data revealed that drivers were distracted - including by other factors such as changing the radio, eating, talking to passengers, and so on - during 52 percent of observed driving time. The findings suggest that distracted driving is not only far more prevalent than was previously believed, but also far more dangerous.

Personal Injury Law

With so many distracted and dangerous drivers on the road, it is more important than ever before to stay safe. When an accident does happen, however, victims should know that they have somebody they can turn to for help. A personal injury attorney can assist accident victims, including by helping them file any claims for compensation to which they may be entitled.