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Study: Distracted Driving Doubles Risk of Crash

Lots of things can distract you while you are driving. Anything from an emotional crisis, to fast food, to a text message can take your eyes and your mind off the road. Now a new study has show that distracted driving more than doubles your risk of a car crash, making it all the more important to decide “it can wait.”

You’re on a busy highway, driving along at the speed limit, when suddenly your phone lights up. A friend is texting you, wondering if you’re still coming. You’re already late. Now you’re anxious too, and you don’t want to upset your friend. You pick up the phone and shoot back “be there soon.” But how much of the road did you miss while you were texting? And what did your distracted driving do to your chance of being in a serious auto accident?

A new study published by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that distracted driving – of any kind – more than doubles your risk of getting into a serious auto accident. That’s not just texting while driving.

Researchers hooked technology into the cars of over 3,500 drivers from six collection sites all across the U.S. They used cameras, radar, and sensors to track drivers actions and reactions for over three years. During that time they witnessed 1,600 car crashes, including 905 serious auto accidents. Lead author Tom Dingus told the Huffington Post:

“We found in this analysis that, next to impairment [drunk driving], distraction is the greatest detriment to driver safety. . . . Distractions that take the driver’s eyes away from the roadway the longest — such as visual-manual tasks — greatly increase a driver’s crash risk.”

Even though, legally speaking, distracted driving usually means texting while driving or holding a cell phone, the study found a much broader range of distracted driving contributed to the risk of a crash, including:

  • Reading or writing
  • Reaching for an object other than a phone
  • Using a touchscreen on a GPS or other vehicle technology
  • Driving while angry, sad, crying or highly emotional
  • Fatigue
  • Interacting with an adult or teen passenger

When asked about the study, Dingus said:

“These findings are important because we see a younger population of drivers, particularly teens, who are more prone to engaging in distracting activities while driving. . . . Our analysis shows that, if we take no steps in the near future to limit the number of distracting activities in a vehicle, those who represent the next generation of drivers will only continue to be at greater risk of a crash.”

Distracted driving is a risk no matter how old you are. Take the pledge against texting while driving and commit to avoiding distracted driving. It could save your life.

David Christensen is an auto accident attorney at Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan. He represents distracted driving victims against insurance companies and at-fault drivers. If you were in a distracted driving accident, contact Christensen Law today for a free consultation.