While cell phones
have recently sprung up as a common cause of car accidents,
a study, the largest to date on crashes involving distracted
drivers, found that rubbernecking causes far more accidents
than cell phone use.
The largest number
of accidents was caused by drivers looking at other accidents,
traffic or roadside incidents. Comparatively, cell phone use
ranked as the sixth highest cause. The study included data
on more than 2,700 accidents involving distracted drivers
between June and November 2002.
98 percent of the accidents reported involved a single distracted
According to the
study, rubbernecking accounted for 16 percent of accidents
reported. This was followed by driver fatigue, which was responsible
for 12 percent, looking at scenery or landmarks (10 percent),
passenger or child distractions (nine percent), adjusting
the radio, tape or CD player (seven percent), and cell phone
use (five percent).
inside the vehicle accounted for 62 percent of the distractions
reported while distractions from outside the vehicle accounted
for 35 percent, and three percent of the distractions were
Of the crashes
that occurred in rural areas, nearly two-thirds of the crashes
reported, common causes included driver fatigue, insects entering
or striking the vehicle, or animals and unrestrained pet distractions.
In urban areas,
automobile accidents caused by distracted drivers were often
due to drivers looking at other crashes, traffic or vehicles,
or cell phone use.
that the findings likely apply to many regions in the United
States because the study included a mix of rural and urban
counties, a diverse ethnic population, and varying road conditions
Washington Post March 17, 2003