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NHTSA: Car accident risks from distracted drivers increasing

If you think more and more people are using their cell phones while driving, you're right: They are. A recent federal study reported that one in every 20 drivers on the road is holding a cell phone to his or her ear while operating a motor vehicle, and one in every 100 drivers can be seen using a text-messaging or other digital device.

Ohio car accident experts and their peers nationally note that, at any moment during the day, roughly 13.5 million drivers are using a hand-held phone. This number is not in decline, despite laws in most states that ban text messaging and the ban in some states that outlaws altogether the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. Text messaging, in fact, is on the rise, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The NHTSA also reports that there is evidence suggesting that one-tenth of all roadway deaths last year -- more than 3,000 in total -- were the direct result of distracted driving. Because this figure includes only confirmed cases of distracted driving, the actual number may be much higher. Pinning the cause of an accident on distracted driving, though, can be difficult because of a lack of witnesses.

In conjunction with the research announcement, the NHTSA also unveiled a new measure for tracking motor vehicle trends. The measurement, called "distraction-affected crashes," will be an aid in future efforts analyzing driving habits.

The research announcement highlights the growing trend of mobile technology and its ability to distract drivers on the road. The increased evidence of the threat of cell phones to motor vehicle drivers and passengers could also guide future efforts to develop safer technology and legislation governing the use of technology while driving.

Source: CNN, "Millions of drivers won't hang up, study shows" Mike M. Ahlers, Dec. 8, 2011

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