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Cellphone use at the root of the distracted driving problem

The number of distracted driving accidents in Kentucky and around the country has risen worryingly in recent years, and rampant cellphone use by drivers is largely to blame, according to road safety groups. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration keeps track of accident statistics in the United States, and the safety agency says that distracted driving accidents left approximately 424,000 road users injured and claimed 3,154 lives in 2013. Experts say that using a cellphone while behind the wheel is especially dangerous because modern electronic devices distract drivers in a number of different ways.

Drivers owe a duty of care to other road users and should remain focused on the road ahead at all times, but this is not possible when reading text messages or checking information on a cellphone screen. In addition to visual distraction, cellphone use causes manual distraction when drivers remove their hands from their steering wheels to dial numbers, check applications or compose text messages. However, the most dangerous form of distraction is cognitive distraction, and even hands-free devices encourage motorists to allow their minds to wander and stray from the task at hand.

Despite the drawbacks of hands-free devices, safety experts recommend them for drivers who must remain in contact. However, they point out that they should only be used in emergency situations. The risks of distracted driving can also be mitigated by ensuring that pets and children are securely restrained before setting off and performing other distracting tasks, such as entering destinations into navigation systems or eating, while vehicles are stationary.

Many road safety advocates believe that the true human cost of distracted driving is far higher than government figures suggest because distraction leaves no obvious evidence for law enforcement. When police investigations are inconclusive and distraction is suspected, personal injury attorneys representing car accident victims may check cellphone records, social media accounts and the electronic data stored by modern vehicles to find information that could be used to establish negligence.

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