Safety and OSHA News

Which activities most likely to increase vehicle crash risk?

Which is more distracting for drivers: being emotionally agitated or activities like using a hand-held cell phone? 

New research from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute provides some answers.

Turns out being emotionally agitated is the bigger risk, according to the researchers.

Someone who is observably angry, sad, crying or emotionally agitated is almost ten times more likely to experience a crash. Drivers more than double their crash risk when they engage in distracting activities that require them to take their eyes off the road, including reading emails or texts, or using a vehicle touch screen.

The Institute says drivers engage in distracting activity more than 50% of the time they are driving. Younger drivers are more likely to do this.

Couple that with the addition of more and more distracting gadgets in cars, and the Institute says you have a growing safety problem.

Driver-related factors such as fatigue, error, impairment and distraction were present in nearly 90% of the 905 crashes studied.

Some other findings:

  • Traveling well above the speed limit creates about 13 times the crash risk
  • Several factors previously thought to increase driver risk, including applying makeup or following a vehicle too closely, were minimally present or not present at all in the crashes analyzed, and
  • Factors such as interacting with a child in the rear seat of the vehicle were found to have a protective effect, lowering the risk of a crash.

The research results from the Second Strategic Highway Research Program Naturalistic Driving Study – the largest natural driving study ever conducted with more than 3,500 participants.

The Institute equips volunteer participants’ vehicles with unobstructive instrumentation, including cameras, sensors and radar, that continuously collect driver performance and behavior. Drivers participated between one and two years, resulting in more than 35 million miles of continuous natural driving data.

The Institute’s goal with this and other research it’s done: Identify driver risks and help create “the necessary countermeasures to ensure the safety of ground transportation users.”

The study is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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