According to the federal government, distracted driving accounts for about one in every 10 traffic fatalities. Though that number of fatalities in 2012 decreased slightly—from 3,360 to 3,328—the number of accidents involving distracted drivers went up dramatically, increasing by more than 30,000.
As defined on the government’s website (www.distraction.gov), distracted driving includes any act that draws a driver’s attention away from his or her primary task—safely operating a vehicle on the road. The use of a handheld device continues to be one of the most significant concerns. Researchers report that nearly 700,000 people are simultaneously driving and texting/talking at any given moment. They note that the average time that a person will divert attention from the road to send or receive an e-mail or text message, or to look at weather, directions or other information on a handheld device, is about five seconds—the length of time it would take to drive the length of a football field at 55 miles per hour.
The use of a device, however, is not the only significant cause of distracted driving. Officials at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that distracted driving covered a broad range of activities, from grooming behind the wheel to reading a book or map, from eating and drinking to having a conversation with passengers in the back seat, from adjusting an in-dash stereo to watching a video.
According to statistics, younger drivers are more likely to drive while distracted. More than 25% of the distracted drivers involved in traffic fatalities were in their 20s. One in 10 of drivers in fatal accidents were between the ages of 16 and 19. One out of every four drivers under the age of 20 said they regularly send or respond to text messages while driving, and one in five say they frequently have multi-message text conversations while behind the wheel.
Interestingly, the research showed that using a hands-free device, such as a headset or Bluetooth, did not significantly diminish the risk of an accident.
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