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Distracted driving still common in US, despite known dangers

After public awareness campaigns in New Jersey and across the United States and laws prohibiting these dangerous behaviors, a new study has revealed that many Americans continue to drive while distracted by electronic equipment.

According to the study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 660,000 people across the country are driving while distracted at any given time during the day.

Cellphones continue to be a common and dangerous form of distraction on our roadways. The study also found that 48 percent of Americans are willing to answer their phone while behind the wheel, at times. In addition, 14 percent of those surveyed admitted that they send or read text messages or emails while they are driving.

Unfortunately, those statistics represent an increase from the year prior, indicating that although Americans recognize the dangers of distracted driving, in many cases they have not made the connection that their driving ability diminishes when distracted, as well.

In New Jersey, all motorists are prohibited from texting and using handheld cellphones while behind the wheel. In addition, bus and novice drivers are not allowed to use any type of cellphone while driving, which includes both handheld phones and those with hands-free capabilities.

Despite these restrictions, the number of fatalities caused by distracted drivers has increased in recent years. In 2010, 3,267 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents caused by distracted drivers. In 2011, that figure rose to 3,331. These collisions also result in a large number of personal injuries – 387,000 in 2011 alone.

Source: The New York Times, “Drivers Are Still Distracted, Study Finds,” Ravi Somaiya, April 6, 2013.

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