Distraction at the wheel: drivers underestimate the danger

The Allianz Center for Technology carried out a comprehensive study in Germany, Austria and Switzerland on the causes and consequences of accidents due to distraction at the wheel. Results show that drivers ignore and minimise dangerous behaviour, and that many accidents are caused by distracted driving more than by poor driving. 

Although one third of all accidents are caused by distractions, most drivers underestimate what causes distractions in the first place. To them, the only truly dangerous behaviour is using a telephone while driving. 

20 % of the drivers questioned confirmed that they send text messages or emails, 30% read such messages and no less than 40% make phone calls while driving. These results are astonishing given the fact that 60% of all drivers consider mobile phone use to be one of the most dangerous sources of distraction on the roads. 

The research also challenges the accepted idea that it is safe to talk on the phone using a hands-free set. In fact the study shows that using this kind of device actually monopolises the driver’s attention and increases the risk of an accident by 2 to 5 times. 

The most serious causes of distraction appear to be the most banal activities

Setting or updating the navigator once a journey has started, or using the radio, CD or MP3 player are all activities that distract a driver’s attention. 

Having intense conversations with passengers or looking frequently in the rear view mirror to check on children increases the risk of accidents by 15%. 

Applying make-up or adjusting one’s tie in the mirror means losing nearly 40% of time and focus on the road, which can increase the risk of accidents 3-fold.  

Furthermore, 34 % of drivers questioned admitted to getting lost in thought over personal or professional matters while they are driving. This high rate reveals the extent to which drivers are unaware of how dangerous mental distractions can be. 

Based on the analysis of its own road traffic accident and damage data, the Allianz Center for Technology has found that a number of vehicle technology solutions can help to compensate for a driver’s inattentiveness. For example, the emergency braking assistant or driver assistance systems can help mitigate the consequences of an accident or serve as strong warnings to distracted drivers. 

Unfortunately most drivers do not know which systems are available or how they work, and so they tend to neglect asking about them when they purchase a new vehicle. On top of this, these systems are optional and costly. 

5 tips for safe driving without distraction 

  • Reduce your use of electronic devices to a minimum 
  • Keep both hands on the wheel 
  • Keep your mind firmly focused on driving 
  • Avoid time pressure
  • Let driver assistance systems help you

About the Allianz Technological Centre 

The Allianz Technological Centre is the consulting and research institution of Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS) for risk engineering, safety and technology. 

It provides technological expertise, damage analysis and advice about claims prevention to Allianz’s entire global insurance network, Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty Services, and third party clients.