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CDC says distracted driving a leading cause of vehicle accidents


With car accidents so common in Illinois and elsewhere in the United States, government officials and agencies that are responsible for preventing them whenever possible continually examine data from around the country to determine their main causes. For decades the primary causes were known to be drunk driving, failure to observe traffic regulations and sleep deprivation. However, in the past two decades distracted driving has become extremely common and is now considered a leading cause of all car accidents. Among the most common distracted driving behaviors are the use of cellphones and smartphones to send and receive voice and text messages.

Distracted driving can be classified into three distinctive types: visual, cognitive and manual. Visually distracted drivers look away from the road; cognitively distracted drivers lose their focus on the road, usually by thinking and processing information that has nothing to do with driving; and manually distracted drivers physically remove their hands from the steering wheel.

In 2012, distracted driving killed 3,328 people and injured 421,000. A 2011 survey conducted by the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention found that 69 percent of drivers 18 to 64 answered calls while driving and 31 percent engaged in texting while operating their vehicles.

Texting may be the worst form of distracted driving because it combines all three types of distractions: visual, cognitive and manual. Drivers not only take their eyes off the road, but also process information and use their hands to hold a smartphone and use its keyboard. The problem has become so acute that most states now prohibit texting and driving. If someone must send a text message, pulling off the road will avoid an accident. Distracted driving clearly is negligent behavior, and drivers can be held liable if they cause an accident that injures or kills.

Source: Cdc.gov, "Distracted driving," accessed on Dec. 10, 2014

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