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Distracted Driving in the U.S.

According to the National Safety Council, distracted driving now ranks among speeding and alcohol use in causing fatal and serious-injury car accidents.

It was estimated that as many as 160,000 accidents in 2010 alone involved some sort of text-messaging with a handheld device, and more than one-million involved talking on a cell phone. Based on such statistics, and a shocking 81% average of drivers admitting to talking on their phones while driving, the risk of an accident increases four-fold when the driver is using a cell phone in any way.

Of course, cell phone use has absolutely skyrocketed since the late 1990s. In 1996, only 14% of Americans had cell phone subscriptions; as of 2011, cell phone subscriptions outnumbered Americans. Texting while driving, however, is a major growing concern across the country, and law enforcement is doing its best to keep up: 44 states have now banned texting-and-driving and 15 states have banned all cell phone use while driving.

Hands-free electronic devices may seem inherently safer, but their dangers have also been highlighted and some organizations even consider them more distractive to drivers than texting. A study by AAA found that voice-activated features of hands-free devices caused “high levels of cognitive distraction,” despite the drivers keeping their eyes on the road and both hands firmly on the wheel. Sending or receiving a text message may distract a driver’s eyes for as long as five seconds, but hands-free devices distract them in different ways than texting by hand.

On a five-point scale in AAA’s study, for example, Siri ranked fourth in terms of cognitive distraction. In the study, the drivers’ cognitive impairments were linked to the shifting of their attention from driving to Siri; this can impair their driving when their physical focus (eyes and hands) is as it should be. Drivers who used hands-free devices suffered from delayed reaction/response times, trouble staying in one lane, and inattention blindness, which is defined as failing to see up to 50% of information in the driving environment despite the drivers’ eyes being on the road. According to the NSC, their reaction times while using hands-free devices were worse than those of a driver impaired by alcohol at the legal .08 limit.

Every day, nine people in the United States are killed in distracted driving-related car accidents. The National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS) estimates that 660,000 drivers are using handheld devices at any given moment. Law enforcement can only do so much, but the growing public awareness and efforts to combat this problem have accomplished a great deal already and will only grow further as time goes on.

If you’ve been injured in a car accident, contact Mike Agruss Law for a free consultation. We are a Chicago-based injury law firm representing individuals (and their families) who have suffered an injury in an accident. We will handle your case quickly and advise you every step of the way, and we will not hesitate to go to trial for you.

Lastly, Mike Agruss Law is not paid attorney’s fees unless we win your case. Our no-fee promise is that simple. You have nothing to risk when you hire us – only the opportunity to seek justice.

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