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Is distracted driving really that big of a problem?

Distracted driving has been around as long as there have been automobiles. People eat, drink, look at maps and engage in any manner of activities other than driving and paying attention to the road. Knowing this begs the question of why is it so much more prevalent and dangerous now than in the past?

For one thing, there are many more vehicles on the roadways these days. Speed limits are faster, attention spans are shorter, and many people use electronic devices while behind the wheel.

Sobering statistics and facts

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that as many as 481,000 drivers are using their cell phones while driving during the daytime. The NHTSA reports that distracted driving accidents resulted in the deaths of 3,450 people in 2016. In 2015, approximately 391,000 people suffered injuries in crashes involving a distracted driver. These numbers could actually be higher since it may not always be evident that distracted driving caused an accident.

Would it surprise you to know that teenagers are the most distracted demographic in fatal accidents? Research indicates that drivers from ages 16 to 24 are on their cell phones more often while they drive than any other group. Texting while driving has become one of the most dangerous activities behind the wheel since it requires all of a driver's attention. It may only take about five seconds to read or send a text, but the landscape of the roadway can change dramatically in that amount of time.

By the time a driver looks up, it could be too late to stop a tragedy, especially for a young driver who lacks the requisite experience to properly respond to an emergency. Any non-driving activity puts you at risk, but texting seems to be one of the worst. Even talking on a cell phone could increase the danger. Smart phones put a great deal of information at your fingertips, but that doesn't mean you should look at it while driving. Other electronic devices in your vehicle, such as a GPS or infotainment system, also increase the potential for accidents.

What to do

More than likely, you already know to eliminate any distractions that prevent you from focusing on driving and paying attention to your surroundings. Putting down your cell phone helps you stay alive, but not if the driver next to you doesn't put down his or hers. If you do end up injured by a distracted driver, you may be entitled to pursue compensation for the associated financial losses.

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