Researchers Study Link Between Mind Wandering, Car Crashes

Mind wandering with highly-disrupting content linked to increased likelihood of responsibility for car crash

FRIDAY, Dec. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Mind wandering while driving correlates with an increased risk of responsibility for motor vehicle accidents, according to a study published online Dec. 13 in BMJ.

Cédric Galéra, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of Bordeaux in France, and colleagues conducted a responsibility case-control study involving 955 drivers injured in motor vehicle crashes who were admitted to an adult emergency department of a university hospital in France from April 2010 to August 2011. The association between mind wandering, defined as thinking about matters other than the task at hand, and the risk of responsibility for the car crash was assessed.

The researchers found that highly-disrupting/distracting content (intense mind wandering) correlated with responsibility for motor vehicle accidents (17 percent of crashes in which the driver was thought to be responsible versus 9 percent of crashes in which the driver was not thought to be responsible), for an adjusted odds ratio of 2.12.

"The association between intense mind wandering and crashing could stem from a risky decoupling of attention from online perception, making the driver prone to overlook hazards and to make more errors during driving," the authors write. "All these findings indicate correlates between the processing of internal information and the decreased sensory processing of external information."

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