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Federal study reveals human toll of distracted driving

Over the last several weeks, we have discussed issues surrounding distracted driving in a pair of blog posts. The development of and proliferation new technology has most definitely fueled concerns about drivers discovering new sources of distraction. Although this message might be a common refrain from public safety officials, a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that these concerns are warranted.

According to the CDC, more than 1,000 people are injured every day as the result of distracted driving. Although this is certainly a startling figure, the same study also revealed that more than nine people are killed in an accident caused by a distracted driver on a daily basis.

It's clear that there is a serious cost associated with distracted driving. Discussion of potential legislation and court cases is important when looking at this subject, but understanding how common this problem is puts a human face to the issue. Knowing that new sources of distraction could emerge, the issue might become even more problematic.

On a very basic level distracted driving takes drivers away from their priority to pay attention and operate their vehicles safely. The CDC categorizes distractions in three ways: visual, manual and cognitive. Whether drivers are averting their eyes from the road, taking their hands off of the steering wheel or caught up in thought, they aren't dedicating their focus and actions to the top priority at hand. Texting and driving, which has been a primary focus in distracted driving discussions, combines all three types of distractions, according to the federal agency.

Ultimately, the hope is that efforts to stop distracted driving will be effective. Until drivers change their habits, however, many people might feel powerless at the hands of drivers who fail to pay attention. Despite this, those who lose a loved one in a fatal accident might have options to help recover for their tremendous loss.

Source: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Distracted Driving in the United States and Europe," accessed March 19, 2014

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