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Distracted driving takes many forms

In Virginia, 80 percent of car accidents stem from distracted driving. We're all aware that our actions when driving can affect our safety. We know how children arguing or crying in the back seat can take our focus off the road, and that if we reach to turn the radio up for a favorite song we'll only have one hand on the wheel and may be looking down for a second or two. Those distractions have almost always been part of the driving experience. So what makes something like texting while driving so dangerous?

When you use your smartphone while driving, you are 23 times more likely to be in an accident. Texting or using a smartphone for any task requires different kinds of attention from us. Basically, there are three kinds of distractions.

(1) Visual: When drivers look away from the traffic ahead to glance at a map, navigation system or phone, they're not clued in to what is happening in front of them. If traffic comes to a stop, they could be caught unaware. They won't see a pedestrian crossing or a vehicle pulled over at the side of the road. Any action they take will be late-possibly too late to avoid a crash.

(2) Manual: Drivers who adjust the car radio or navigation system, brush or comb their hair, apply makeup or perform other grooming activities like removing a coat are less focused on the manual tasks needed for driving. The same applies to those who enjoy food or beverages while they're driving, and those who text or enter any information into a phone.

(3) Cognitive: Conversations of any kind can be distracting for drivers, whether they're in person with passengers in the car, talking, texting, emailing or using social media on a smartphone. The more you have to think about the conversation, the less time you have to think about driving. It becomes too much information for drivers' brains to process, even if they're using a hands-free phone, surprisingly.

A deadly combination of distractions

Texting while driving is the most dangerous distraction of all because, as you can see, it involves all three types of distractions. It also affects younger drivers more, because they text more often yet have less driving experience. Teens and younger adults are especially at risk; drivers aged 15-19 who are involved in fatal crashes are most likely to have been driving while distracted.

If you or someone in your family has been injured in a serious crash, make sure to talk to an attorney about the options available to seek damages. Car crash victims shouldn't pay the price for someone else's distracted driving. 

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