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April is Distracted Driver Awareness Month and an Opportunity to Save Lives

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The National Safety Council (NSC) observes April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month and urges the public to pledge against driving while texting, talking on the phone, and engaging in other distracting activities which have proven to increase the chance of an accident. Adult drivers are encouraged to inform teens about the dangers of driving while distracted. However, a study showed that 94% of teen drivers are already aware of the dangers of distracted driving but 31% engage in the practice anyway.

Contrary to what most adults and teens believe, teens are not the age group in the greatest percentile of texting drivers, but they are the most likely to be killed or injured in an accident. Of older drivers between 19 and 24-years old, 42% admit to distracted driving. That number is even higher for drivers between 25 and 29 years of age, at 45%. However, the chances of teens being in an accident while texting are 400% greater than an adult who is texting.

While 31% of teens between 16 and 18 years of age admit to texting while driving, 69% do not. Presenting the fact that most of their peers do not engage in the unsafe practice, would be better approach to change their behavior, than simply telling them what they already know. Hopefully their improved behavior will remain with them as they enter adulthood.

2016 - Deadliest in Nine Years

The year 2016 will show the highest national motor vehicle fatality rate in nine years. The National Safety Council estimates that 40,000 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents last year; a 14% increase over the past two years. Although 83% of drivers surveyed considered driving as a safety concern, 64% indicated that they were comfortable speeding and 47% said they were comfortable texting or operating a voice controlled device.

"Our complacency is killing us. Americans believe there is nothing we can do to stop crashes from happening, but that isn't true," said NSC President and CEO Deborah A.P. Hersman. "The U.S. lags the rest of the developed world in addressing highway fatalities. We know what needs to be done; we just haven't done it."

In recognition of Distracted Driver Awareness Month here are some recent statistics:

· Of the 2.5 million people involved in motor vehicle accidents in the U.S., 1.6 million involved cell phone use. That is 64% of all accidents that had a cell phone involved.

· An average of 421,000 injuries occur each year in motor vehicle accidents involving a distracted driver.

· 330,000 accidents occur each year due to a driver who was texting.

· Texting drivers account for 1 out of 4 car accidents.

· Texting and driving is 6 times more likely to cause an accident than drunk driving.

· It only takes a 3 second distraction for any accident to occur. That is the same time it takes to turn the ignition key. It takes an average of five seconds to read a text message,

· The chances of a crash are 23 times greater when texting. Even if the accident is the other drivers fault, you probably could have avoided it, had your eyes been on the road.

· 25% percent of teens respond to at least one text during each time behind the wheel.

· 10% of adults and 20% of teens admit to entire conversations over text platforms while driving

· 11 teenagers lose their lives every day because they were texting while driving.

· Of the 82% of American teenagers that own cell phones, 52% talk on it while driving and 31% text behind the wheel.

· 77% of adults and 55% of teens polled, say they can easily manage texting and driving.

Hands-Free is Not Safer

Who has not been driving on the highway and approached a vehicle in the right lane, drifting from the shoulder to the lane marker and back again? Cautiously passing the vehicle we wonder if the driver is impaired until we see him engaged in what appears to be a conversation with himself. The driver is more likely talking on a hands-free device. Two recent studies have shown that the use of a hands-free device is just as distracting as using a hands-on device. In one of the tests a group of participants was asked to drive on a virtual road network. The driver's reaction time to a pedestrian entering the drivers field of peripheral vision, from a pathway onto a crosswalk, was measured. The finding showed that the use of both the handheld devices and the hands-free devices slowed reaction times by 40% more than with drivers who were not distracted. The drivers peripheral vision was reduced simply by the shift of concentration from the road to the conversation. Even though the new law in California that took effect in January, 2017 allows for hand free devices, using them while driving is a bad idea.

What We Can Do to Stop Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving is an epidemic in this country. Like any epidemic, it needs to be fought on several fronts - prevention, awareness and accountability. Prevention, though education at an early age is one proven way to slow the spread of the epidemic. Requiring youths to take a distracted driving awareness course as part of obtaining a driver's license, coupled with parents and older siblings setting a good example, could significantly slow the growth of the problem. Awareness, through public campaigns, encouraging everyone to do their part in spreading the word and discouraging friends and family from engaging in the dangerous practice would be another deterrent. Finally, accountability, by enforcing the new California law, in place since January, against distracted driving which bans the use of all hand-held communication and videoing while driving.

Vititoe Law Group is a Southern California personal injury law firm, committed to making the highways a safer place. If you were injured by a distracted driver, reach out to the attorneys at Vititoe Law Group for a free consultation. Distracted driving can be considered texting, talking on the phone, eating, drinking, reading, grooming or any other activity that takes the drivers attention away from driving, even for a moment. Remember to save lives, just drive.

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