Inattention found to cause most accidents, not driving ability

By Linsey Heiser
February 22, 2001

How many of us have had someone say to us “keep your eyes on the road?” Most of us have probably heard this many times. Whether it was from our parents when we were learning to drive or while when were chatting away driving with friends, this phrase could save our lives.

Not only is it important for us to keep our eyes on the road, it is also important to keep our minds on the road.

According to a recent study published in Self-Help Magazine, it was found that the high percentage of car accidents was due to inattention caused by all the secondary activities while driving, rather than driving ability.

Previous studies have focused on the external distractions, such as looking at road signs or a map while driving as the causes to most accidents, however this study featured looked at internal distractions, such as one’s thoughts.

The study was conducted by M.A. Recarte and L.M. Nunes of the Universidad Complutense in Madrid, Spain. They studied whether a driver’s eye movements would be affected by other tasks, such as talking or looking, to the point of not being able to pay full attention to the surroundings.

Twelve drivers had their eye movements recorded while being asked to perform other tasks by speaking or imagining. During the tests, it was found that drivers focused their eyes on certain points and did not look at the dashboard and the mirrors as often. Also, peripheral vision was affected, which could make it more difficult for drivers to notice quick changes in traffic.

Using cellular phones is another cause of losing attention while driving. Adding in conversation and remembering directions can make it very risky for drivers.

The research shows that doing mental calculations while driving will make drivers pay less attention to driving and put them at more risk for an accident.

“With our research, we are trying to help people know a little more about themselves to give them the opportunity to learn better criteria to decide how much they want to use their minds while driving,” Nunes said.

On an opposite note, the research found that other behavior while driving, such as listening to music can be beneficial. Drivers need to know how much they can do or think while driving and know when to stop and concentrate.

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Linsey Heiser

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