Driving requires constant information and high concentration from the driver in order to be able to react as quickly as possible and to make the right decisions. However, the driver's attention is occasionally diverted to other tasks, reducing his ability to detect traffic events and his responsiveness to incidents.
In France in 2020, the causal factor "inattention or use of telephone or technological distractors" was found in one driver out of five (312 people killed in France). There are several types of distractors (visual, manual, cognitive or auditory) from sources inside or outside the vehicle. In particular, mind wandering, i.e. being lost in one's thoughts, represents a significant road safety hazard.
The driver's attention is more or less focused depending on his or her driving experience. Thus, the novice driver has little automation in place and has little attention availability to apprehend and manage complex driving situations.
Studies show that lack of attention is present (depending on the scope given to the notion of disturbed attention) in 25 to 50 % of personal accidents. According to a multifactorial analysis of accident causes (ASFA), inattention, the only factor whose importance has been increasing since 2007, accounts for 16 % of fatal motorway accidents.
According to the Ifsttar-Inserm collective expertise, a telephone communication increases the risk of a material or personal accident by a factor of three and nearly one in ten road accidents is linked to the use of the telephone while driving. It may be added that the risk would be similar between calling with or without a "hands-free kit" because of the cognitive component of distraction.