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What new study says about distracted driving

The Center for Disease Prevention and Control monitors not only diseases, but also accidents with injuries and many other topics. According to the CDC, distracted driving is on the rise and it is leading to more accidents. In 2009, 5,400 people died and about 448,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. Of that number, 1,000 fatalities and 24,000 injuries were due to cell phone use. Many of them could have been in Massachusetts.

A new study shows that it is not only cell phone usage which leads to distracted driving, but just thinking about a cell phone leads to an increased risk of car accidents due to distractions.

Sources reported that the study, conducted by the University of Washington, looked at different forms of addiction and identified cell phone usage as an addictive behavior. The researchers studied college age students who exhibited a close relationship with their phones as measured by survey responses. The study tracked 384 students for three years.

At the end of the three years, the researchers cross-referenced the phone users with their driving records. The students who were least attached to their cell phones were in 25 car crashes per 100 people. The students who were most attached to their cell phones were in 38 car crashes per 100 people. The researchers concluded that there is a link between cell phone attachment and risk for car accidents -- even when the cell phone user isn't actually using the phone.

According to the CDC, there are three types of distraction that can contribute to a car accident.

  • Visual distraction (not looking at the road)
  • Manual distraction (not having your hands on the wheel)
  • Cognitive distraction (not paying attention to driving but thinking about something else)

If a person thinks about their cell phone, even though they aren't actually using it, that may be considered a cognitive distraction.

When a driver is distracted and causes an accident with injuries to the car's passengers, or to those in another motor vehicle, the distracted driver's negligence could make them liable for personal injury damages to the other individuals, including pain and suffering or wrongful death.

Source: The Atlantic, "Can simply thinking about your phone lead to a car crash?" Brian Fung, April 30, 2012

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