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Think you are immune to distracted driving?

Ohio has a strong distracted driving campaign: "Look up, hang up, and go slow for the cone zone." The Ohio Department of Public Safety reports that 80 percent of Americans believe hands-free devices are safer than handheld phones, but the research does not prove that. In addition, the problem of distracted driving is not limited to just cell phones or electronic devices. If you think you are immune from distracted driving, consider the following.

What is distracted driving?

When you drive, you should keep your hands on the wheel, your eyes on the road and your mind on your driving. Americans today lead busy lives, and most people are used to multitasking while working, cooking dinner or watching television. When was the last time you fully focused on a job or a conversation?

Distracted driving is defined as performing "any activity that could divert a person's attention away from the primary task of driving." Probably the most common type of distraction is texting or talking on the phone. Distractions might also include brushing your hair, eating, taking a drink, adjusting the radio, using GPS or talking to your passengers.

The problem

The National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration reports that in 2014, 3,179 people were killed and 431,000 people were injured in accidents that involved drivers who were distracted. Although young people have the greatest proportion of distracted driving accidents, these crashes are not limited to drivers under 25. Novice drivers in Ohio are banned from using handheld and hands-free cell phones, and all drivers are banned from texting when driving.

The face of motorists who drive distracted is not limited to any one group. You might reach for your soda while driving and be able to take a drink quite safely. What happens when the lid comes off and it spills all over your lap? Even if your eyes are off the road for just five seconds, if you are going 55 or 60 mph, you will drive the length of a football field in that time. Imagine all the things that could happen if you are not paying attention to driving.

Be part of the solution

Take five seconds when you get in your car and turn off your phone. If you do have to use it for navigation, set it before you get on the road. When you are in the car, practice mindfulness and stay focused on the conditions around you. Do not eat when you are driving.

Motor vehicle accidents happen in just a few seconds, but the effects of the injury might last a lifetime. If you have been hurt in an accident, have an attorney assess your situation.

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