Naturalistic Driving Study Helps Determine Distraction Risk

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texting driving teensThe largest naturalistic light-vehicle study ever conducted is shedding light on just how risky some behaviors are (or aren’t) for drivers.  The results highlight known risk factors, such as using a cell phone or other “distracting” behaviors, but also demonstrate that drivers who are emotionally agitated are more likely to be involved in serious crashes as well.

Researchers from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute analyzed data collected from more than 3,500 participants based in six different locations across the country and looked at the more than 1600 crashes reported, including incidents ranging from mild to severe.  The study is the first to analyze only serious crashes without adding near-crashes or fender benders into the mix in order to extrapolate additional data about crash risk.

Vehicles that were involved in the study were equipped with unobtrusive data-gathering gadgets (including cameras and various kinds of sensors) to monitor drivers’ behavior at the time of the crashes.

Study identifies risky (and not so risky) driving behaviors

The Virginia Tech researchers looked at 905 severe crashes to see what kinds of behaviors were associated with the accidents.  They found that such activities as reaching for objects, using cell phones, reading, writing, or using the vehicle’s touchscreen instrument panels dramatically increased crash risks.  They also found that drivers who were visibly distressed, angry, or otherwise emotionally agitated had a much higher risk.

On the other hand, applying make-up or following too closely were not significant risk factors for crashing, according to the study.  Drivers interacting with children in the backseat actually had a lower crash risk than the control group.

The lead author of the study, Tom Dingus, pointed out the significance of the data:  “These findings are important because we see a younger population of drivers, particularly teens, who are more prone to engaging in distracting activities while driving.”  He added that limiting distracting activities should be a top priority because “those who represent the next generation of drivers will only continue to be at greater risk of a crash” if they do not modify their behavior.

Distracted driving and lawsuits

Victims of car accidents or their family members can file a civil lawsuit if they believe that negligent behavior on the part of a driver was the cause of the accident. Drunk driving has long been recognized as a contributing factor in such settings, but distracted driving has also received an increasing amount of attention in the legal system. Several states have enacted laws that prohibit or curtain the use of cell phones while driving. They recognize that drivers should not put their desire to talk or text over the well-being of others with whom they share the road.

If you believe that distracted driving may have been a factor in an accident that left you with serious injuries or claimed the life of a loved one, please contact an experienced NJ car accident lawyer from Eisbrouch Marsh to make sure that you receive the representation you deserve.  Call 201-342-5545 to schedule a free case review.


  1. Science Daily, Some Distractions While Driving Are Riskier Than Others, Researchers Say
  2. PNAS, Driver crash risk factors and prevalence evaluation using naturalistic driving data.