Almost every second person has other things to do at the wheel
A car driver is distracted by operating a device and therefore steers head-on into oncoming traffic. More and more accidents happen due to this and comparable facts…oren.
Source: Zurich canton / city police
The number of accidents in Germany is falling. The reasons for accidents, however, are increasing. The police are increasingly finding no cause at all.
D.he route is clear, the weather is good. Nevertheless, it crashes on Autobahn 2 near Hanover. A driver comes off the lane with her Peugeot, races into the ditch and rolls over several times. The 46-year-old and her passenger are seriously injured from the wreck. The police are puzzling over the cause. Was the driver asleep? Or was she distracted when the cell phone suddenly rang in her car?
The tragic accident is not an isolated incident. More and more accidents happen for no apparent reason. If the phrase “accident of unknown cause” appears in the police reports, neither excessive speed, insufficient distance, alcohol or wrong turns can be determined. There must be other causes that go deeper. Scientists speak of “human factors” and warn because drivers are more and more often unable to concentrate, distracted, stressed or overwhelmed.
"This is a broad field of research," says Petra Peter-Antonin from the Federal Highway Research Institute (BASt). BASt’s accident research specializes primarily in examining sheet metal damage to the crashed cars and diagnosing accidental injuries. Volkswagen safety experts assume that 38 percent of all fatal road accidents have "mental" causes. What is meant are distraction, tiredness and excessive demands.
How big the problem is becomes clear from a detailed analysis of the accident statistics. Accident researchers from BMW found that around 43 percent of so-called driving accidents occur on straight roads. "That makes it more difficult to explain the causes," says BMW spokesman Friedbert Holz. "It can be jerky steering movements at high speed, improper driving style, but also inattentiveness and distraction."
It is just as puzzling why so many motorists drive into disaster without doing anything. Analyzes by the Association of German Auto Insurers (GdV) show that every second driver does not react before an impending collision and thunders into the rear of the vehicle in front of them without braking. 68 percent of drivers do not attempt to brake or steer before they have an accident at an intersection. BMW experts have investigated why this is so in an EU project and again identified inattention, distraction and misjudgment as the causes.
"Driving is becoming a minor matter," warns Dora Donosa, traffic psychologist at the Austrian automobile club OAMTC, of dangerous sideline activities in the car. The reason is a survey of more than 550 drivers. 42 percent of them admitted that they regularly do other things at the wheel. As a result, eleven percent of those surveyed had even caused an accident.
Writing and reading SMS is one of the most dangerous "non-driving activities". US researchers at the Tech Transportation Institute, who observed truck drivers for 18 months, speak of a “new universe of danger”. Anyone who writes an SMS at the wheel is so distracted from the traffic that the risk of accidents increases by a factor of 23. The tragic death of a 24-year-old English woman shows what that means. She was standing on the side of the road because of a flat tire when another car raced into the rear of her Peugeot at 110 km / h. The person who caused the accident had written and received more than 20 text messages before the crash. A court sent her to jail for 21 months.
But the cell phone is no longer the only device that distracts drivers. Transport scientists like Professor Helmut Wilhelm from Tubingen observe with concern that more and more multimedia devices are finding their way into cars. In addition to the radio and CD player, TV receivers, DVD players, e-mail and internet connections will now also provide "infotainment". But the risk of accidents actually increases significantly with these devices. Wilhelm warns that the driver will be “visually overwhelmed”. “If you look at the radio or sat nav for just a second, the car covers more than 40 meters at 150 km / h without your eyes concentrating on the traffic,” the ADAC calculates.
A study by the University of Regensburg shows that displays and multimedia systems are already a frequent cause of accidents. After analyzing more than 300 traffic accidents, traffic psychologist Martin Grundl assumes that around six percent of traffic accidents are caused by “visual distraction by things inside the vehicle”. For comparison: drink driving is the cause of "only" 2.1 percent of all accidents on Germany’s roads.
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