ERIE, Pennsylvania — Taking selfies, flossing and "romantic encounters" are among the distracted-driving behaviors to which respondents admitted in a recent survey commissioned by Erie Insurance.
Texting may be the first thing that comes to mind when distracted driving is mentioned, and the survey confirmed that it's a serious concern, with 30 percent of respondents admitting they do it and 75 percent saying they've seen others text while driving.
But the survey, conducted by Harris Poll, uncovered a wide variety of other dangerous activities going on behind the wheel.
Some behaviors drivers admitted to: Romantic encounter/PDA (mentioned by 15 percent of respondents), combing/styling hair (15 percent), changing clothes (9 percent), putting on makeup (8 percent), brushing/flossing teeth (4 percent), taking selfies (4 percent), changing drivers (3 percent) and going to the bathroom (3 percent).
The survey of more than 2,000 U.S. drivers, aged 18 and older, was conducted online in February and released in time to help call attention to April's Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
"As a car insurance company who cares deeply about our customers, we want to do whatever we can to help people stay safe behind the wheel," said Doug Smith, senior vice president of personal lines at Erie Insurance, in a statement. "We hope that our survey will get people talking about the importance of eliminating distracted driving and keeping their focus on the road."
According to the Centers for Disease Control, each day in the U.S., 9 people are killed and 1,153 injured in vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver. And U.S. government statistics indicate that a total of 3,328 people were killed and 421,000 injured in such crashes in 2012, the most recent year for which data are available.
Not surprisingly, younger drivers tend to succumb to distraction most often. For example, the Erie Insurance survey found that more than half of those in the 18-34 age group admitted to texting while driving, compared to 39 percent of those aged 35-44, 33 percent of the 45-54 age group, 14 percent of the 55-64-year-olds and just 7 percent of those 65 and over.
A recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, which analyzed videos of moderate-to-severe crashes involving teen drivers, found that "distraction was a factor in 58 percent of all crashes studied."
That number, says the AAA foundation is "four times previous estimates that were based on police reports."
For the study, researchers analyzed the six seconds leading up to a crash in nearly 1,700 videos of teen drivers taken from in-vehicle event recorders. They discovered that the leading causes of distraction were interacting with passengers (a factor in 15 percent of the crashes), cell-phone use (12 percent), looking at something in the vehicle (10 percent) and looking at something outside the vehicle (9 percent).
Said Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, in a statement: "The in-depth analysis provides indisputable evidence that teen drivers are distracted in a much greater percentage of crashes than we previously realized."
Edmunds says: Distracted Driving Awareness Month is a good time for all drivers to think about what might be taking their attention away from the road.