Despite the complexities of the driving task, more and more drivers engage in non-driving secondary tasks that take their hands (manual distraction), their eyes (visual distraction) and/or their mind (cognitive distraction) away from their primary task. Inattention arising from external distractions has received much less consideration beyond the impact of mobile phone use. We aimed to investigate the association between distraction behind the wheel and risk of being responsible for a road traffic crash in a responsibility case-control study. The study population included 1912 drivers injured in a road traffic crash recruited in two rounds of recruitment (from April 2010 to August 2011 and from March 2013 to January 2015) in the adult emergency department of Bordeaux University Hospital (France). Responsibility levels were estimated using a standardized method. Self-reported activities among a pre-established list of potential distractions were combined into four external distraction variables: visual distraction, manual distraction, auditory distraction, and verbal interaction. A significantly increased risk of being responsible for a road traffic crash was associated with the exposure to activities that take drivers' eyes off the road (adjusted odds ratio 2.99, 95% confidence interval 1.42-6.28) and activities that take drivers' hands off the wheel (adjusted odds ratio 2.12, 95% confidence interval 1.20-3.75). No significant associations were found for verbal interaction and listening to the radio and/or singing. This study suggests that beyond the use of mobile phone, particular attention must be paid to activities that involve visual and/or manual distraction.
Keywords: Attention; Distraction; Road safety; Traffic crash responsibility.
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