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The dangers of inattention while behind the wheel

Despite significant attention paid to the dangers of driving while distracted by a cellphone in New Jersey and around the country, one study has found that simply daydreaming and failing to pay attention is the cause of many car accidents. Erie Insurance reviewed a national database of motor vehicle deaths called the Fatality Analysis Reporting System to learn what law enforcement identified as the cause of most fatal car accidents.

There were a total of about 172,000 fatal car accidents over a five-year period. Around 10 percent of those fatalities involved distracted driving, and in 61 percent of fatal accidents caused by distraction, a driver was simply thinking of other things and not paying attention. This compares to 14 percent of people who were on cellphones. Unfortunately, the monotony of driving can make it all too easy for minds to wander.

While experts anticipate that autonomous vehicles will eliminate these and other accidents caused by human error, semi-autonomous vehicles may make the situation even worse since a driver still needs to pay attention but has less to do. Even though Tesla's Autopilot includes alerts for drivers, their attention still wanders. Some companies plan to include eye-tracking software to make sure drivers remain on task despite all the work the vehicle is doing for them.

Occupants of other vehicles could be injured in an accident in which a motorist is distracted, fatigued or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The victims may suffer in a financial, physical and emotional sense after such an accident, and the driver who caused it might be considered liable. If the driver's insurance company does not offer enough compensation, the injured person may want to talk to an attorney about what to do next.

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