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The dangers of inattention while behind the wheel

Drivers in New York might have heard a lot about the dangers of talking on a cellphone while driving, but one study says that drivers who daydream may be more dangerous than those who use their phones while behind the wheel. Researchers at Erie Insurance used the nationwide Fatality Analysis Reporting System to examine what factors law enforcement blamed for fatalities over the past five years. Distracted driving caused around 10 percent of the 172,000 deaths.

More than 60 percent of the distracted driving deaths involved at least one person who was simply not paying attention. Cellphones were in second place, but they lagged far behind at 14 percent.

The monotony of driving leads to inattention. While autonomous vehicles may eliminate these and other behaviors that cause accidents, the semi-autonomous vehicles that are increasingly common may reduce the alertness of drivers even more. Drivers need to be able to take control away from the cars in some situations, but with the cars doing most of the work, drivers have less incentive to pay attention. Even the alerts on the Tesla Autopilot do not keep drivers as aware as they need to be. Some companies hope to include eye tracking software that will monitor drivers' attention.

Whether a car driven by a human or a semi-autonomous vehicle causes a motor vehicle accident, it could leave a person seriously injured. Another driver may cause the accident because of inattention, fatigue, drunk driving or some other reason, or an accident might be caused by a mechanical problem. Whatever the cause, the party responsible may be liable for the expenses of the injured person. Compensation after a motor vehicle accident might be critical for an injured person who faces a long period of recovery.

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