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Is distracted driving the primary auto safety issue?

A recent report in The Atlantic reveals something interesting about the prospect of hitting the road for a Sunday drive or your morning commute. Studies have shown that simply eliminating driver distraction could prevent at least four million accidents annually. Furthermore, a whopping 94 percent of all crashes involve some form of driver error or impairment (including distractions like texting, talking on a cellphone, reaching to change the radio, reading GPS directions, eating or drinking) prior to impact.

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Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and speeding may get the primary blame for causing the most accidents - at least in many people's minds, regardless of whether that is supported by facts - but it seems like distraction may really be "public enemy number one" against good driving.

This is especially true of electronic distractions like texting or reading/checking email and social networking. That's because these types of distractions are all-encompassing, and involve three distinct levels of distraction:

  • Physical - taking your hands off the wheel to operate the phone (pick it up, scroll to the appropriate screen, type in digits or text, etc.)
  • Visual - taking your eyes off the road ahead in order to look at the screen to read, compose or proofread
  • Cognitive - even if you are using a hands-free device, your brain is still focused on the conversation at hand instead of the tasks associated with driving. Texting in particular can lead to something called "inattention blindness" wherein you basically cannot see what is happening right in front of you because your mind's power is occupied with trying to comprehend and respond to the messages you receive and send.

Texting really is the proverbial perfect storm of distraction, and can prove to be even more hazardous in some ways than traditionally risky behaviors like driving while impaired. Studies have shown that texting has a negative impact on nearly all aspects of safe vehicle operation, including lane positioning, collision rate, control, stimulus detection and reaction time.

There are millions of accidents annually caused by distracted drivers, and even though Maryland has a texting ban for all drivers, many of those happen in our state as well. If you've been hurt in a crash caused by a texting driver, contact a local personal injury attorney to learn more about your legal rights.

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