Distractions and inattention while driving are estimated to cause 1.2 million U.S. vehicle crashes annually — about 25 percent of all crashes.

One estimate says cell phones contribute to about 60,000 auto accidents a year in the United States, but according to the Mayo Clinic Health Letter, other distractions are even more dangerous.

Reaching for a moving object inside the car is the worst distraction, according to a study on driver distractions. Researchers equipped 100 cars with a camera that filmed the driver and a sensor system that detected accidents or near accidents. The cars were driven a cumulative distance of about 2 million miles by 241 different drivers. In that time, there were 82 crashes and 761 near crashes, the newsletter says.

The researchers determined that reaching for a moving object inside the car increased the crash or near-crash risk eight times. Looking at something outside the car increased risk 3.7 times. Dialing a cell phone increased risk 2.8 times. Eating, reaching for an object or talking on a cell phone increased risk 1.5 times, according to the Mayo Clinic Health Letter.

Via Earth Times