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Automobile Collisions / Workers' Compensation

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Distracted driving: epidemic on our roads, auto accident magnet

In 2013, 3,154 people were killed in distracted driving crashes, and 424,000 were injured. Distractions include texting, cellphone or smartphone use, reading, conversation, grooming, eating and drinking. Some drivers have been known to watch a video and drive at the same time. Adjusting radio stations, changing a CD and using a navigation system have been activities drivers have engaged in for many years. Researchers, however, have found that text messaging is the most alarming distraction of all.

They have also found that despite much warning information and newly passed laws such as Wisconsin's ban on texting for drivers of any age, people still drive distracted. Some facts compiled by the United States Department of Transportation are startling and thought-provoking. As of December of 2013, 153.3 billion text messages were sent in the United States every month. During daylight hours, at any moment about 660,000 drivers are using cellphones or other electronic devices while driving. This number has held steady since 2010. Because it involves visual, manual and cognitive attention, it's texting that is the most dangerous distraction. Twenty percent of teens and 10 percent of parents acknowledge they have long text conversations while driving. A driver's eyes are off the road for five seconds on average while texting. A car traveling at 55 mph travels the length of a football field in five seconds – a short span of time, but a huge opportunity to endanger oneself, a passenger and other motorists.

A 2013 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation found, among other facts, that a driver's visual behavior was the most sensitive to change when using a hand-held cellphone. Called cellphone subtasks, dialing, locating the phone and texting are associated with a substantial increase in risk of serious injury and property damage vehicle crashes. Accidents can be caused by distracted drivers missing signals, reacting more slowly to road situations, seeing objects but failing to remember, inconsistent driving speed, unsafe following distances and increased stop light violations.

Degraded driver performance precipitates motor vehicle accidents with frequency, studies show. Victims may consider legal recourse when accident investigations indicate the at-fault driver was distracted.

Source: U.S. Government Website for Distracted Driving, "Facts and Statistics," accessed April. 29, 2015

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