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Smartphone use causing an epidemic of distracted driving?

Even before the advent of cellphones, distracted driving was an issue. Irresponsible drivers regularly ate, drank, read books or maps, engaged in boisterous conversations, switched music selections or applied makeup while behind the wheel.

Nowadays, there are still all these "old school" distractions to contend with, as well as a whole new generation of shiny new electronic objects that compete for our attention. In particular, the now-ubiquitous smartphones, with their texting, talking, web surfing, email, social media access and apps, are proving to literally be hazardous to our health if used while driving.

In particular, texting and using apps like Snapchat or Instagram (to take and post selfies) are inherently dangerous to drivers, vehicle occupants and passersby. This is because these activities involve three distinct levels of distraction:

  • Manual - taking your hands off the wheel in order to pick up the phone, manipulate the keys, type in a response, snap a picture or post a status
  • Visual - looking away from the road ahead to stare at your phone screen to read an incoming message, ensure that your response is typing in correctly, or review a picture you just took
  • Cognitive - focusing on your upcoming text conversation or post instead of one the road ahead can actually result in something called "inattentional blindness," which is described by psychologists as failing to see a conspicuous object directly in our field of vision because our focus is elsewhere

The Millennial connection

Not necessarily surprisingly, the so-called "millennial" generation of drivers (those currently under the age of 24) show the highest incidence of distracted driving and other high-risk driving behaviors. A poll released earlier this year by the American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety showed that upwards of 85 percent of millennials reported speeding/reckless driving, distracted driving and running red lights or stop signs in the 30 days prior to the survey.

Even if you and those you love take all the necessary precautions, drive responsibly and hit the road with due care every time, the reckless actions of others can result in injury-causing accidents. Contact a local personal injury attorney to learn about your legal rights and options when you or someone you love is injured.

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