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  Auto Insurance News – Distracted Driving Dangers  
  by Cindy Parroné |  

Recently, local news ran a story about a high school basketball team traveling to a playoff game in a school bus. The bus was sideswiped by another vehicle, left the roadway and rolled over onto its roof. Thankfully, there were no fatalities, but there were numerous injuries. The cause of the accident was distracted driving. The operator of the car that hit the bus had spilled a drink in their lap.

April has been designated by the National Safety Council as Distracted Driving Awareness Month. This initiative is designed to educate people about the dangers of distracted driving and how to reduce your risk. With 3,179 people killed and another 431,000 injured due to driving distractions in 2014 alone, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration finds these statistics to be alarming. More than 80% of drivers responding to the AAA Foundation Traffic Safety Culture Index feel threatened by the distracted driving of others. To bring the perspective to a more regional level, a study published earlier this year by Erie Insurance noted that Illinois ranks #6 nationwide for the number of items posted by drivers.

When we discuss distracted driving, we are talking about drivers engaged in another activity at the same time they are behind the wheel. There are three basic types of distractions: visual, manual and cognitive. Anything that would cause you to take your eyes off the road would be considered a visual distraction while something that makes you take your hands off the steering wheel would be classified as a manual distraction. Cognitive distractions involve thinking about something other than driving. Using a cell phone, eating, drinking, talking, grooming, reading, using a navigational system, watching a video, using in-vehicle technologies, and dealing with children or pets are all examples of activities that take away from the primary focus of driving. Texting is the worst offense because it involves all three types of distractions. Do you realize that taking your eyes off the road for five seconds traveling at 55 mph is the same as driving blindfolded the length of a football field? Several studies indicate that it takes an additional 27 seconds after finishing the secondary activity for the vehicle operator to refocus on driving. During daylight hours across our nation 660,000 drivers are fumbling with electronic devices or using a cell phone.

Although Illinois has passed legislation that makes it illegal to use a hand-held phone while driving, the hands-free devices still involve distracted driving. It also makes sense that the worst impact of distracted driving can be linked to young drivers with the least amount of behind the wheel experience. Sixteen percent of distracted driving accidents involve motorists less than 20 years of age.

So what can you take away from this information? Be aware of driving distractions, and do your best to minimize them when you are behind the wheel. If you are a passenger in a vehicle, help the driver maintain focus. Instruct your children to turn off their cell phone before they put the key in the ignition. Use your best defensive driving skills so you can react quickly if you encounter a distracted driver. Distracted driving is a danger to you, your passengers, other vehicles and pedestrians.


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