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Texting and driving and the other types of distractions

Most states, including Pennsylvania, recognize the dangers of distracted driving by now. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 14 states have some form of law or regulation that prohibits drivers from using hand-held phones while driving. In Pennsylvania, a text messaging ban applied to all drivers, regardless of skill and experience behind the wheel.

Despite this, a study released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety stated that although states have implemented cell phone and texting and driving bans, data provided by insurers and other groups show that distracted driving is still one of the major causes of car accidents.

According to the IIHS and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study, when drivers stop using their phones due to a ban, they tend to engage in other types of distracted driving, such as eating, smoking or interacting with passengers. Researchers found that when drivers were using their phones, they are more likely to look at the road and their side mirrors, which questions the actual risk of texting while driving and its effect on road safety.

The study authors listed secondary distraction activities aside from distracted driving and found that the most common secondary activity was a driver's interaction with passengers while operating the vehicle. This distracted driving behavior accounted for 12 percent of driving time, followed by holding but not interacting with an object for six percent of driving time. About five percent of driving time went to talking, dancing or singing, while adjusting the automobile's temperature or radio controls took up three percent of driving time.

Additionally, a driver's near-crash rate was found to be three times higher when reaching, answering or dialing a cell phone. Drivers who handle their phones frequently are more prone to crashes. However, more than 17 percent of near-crash or crash risk resulted from other kinds of interactions.

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, "Eyes on the road: Searching for answers to the problem of distracted driving," Oct. 24, 2014

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