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Make a decision to drive: banning all distractions behind the wheel

A recent New York Times article shared the story of a 19-year-old Santa Maria, California, student who was hit by a distracted driver while riding his bicycle. The young victim died in the accident, forever changing the lives of both his loved ones and the teenage driver who caused the crash while texting.

This story is just one of the many fatal accidents caused by distracted driving. April has been declared National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, leading several federal and local agencies alike to step up their efforts to spot this destructive driving habit.

The National Safety Council reports that approximately 28 percent of all car accidents occur because one or both of the drivers involved are using their cell phones. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration bolsters the significance of this data by pointing out that one sixth of all fatal crashes are caused by distracted driving.

In California it is illegal to drive while texting or using a hand-held cell phone, yet some studies have shown that even hands-free cell phone use is likely to cause an accident. Safety researchers stress that drivers who conduct any sort of phone conversation allow part of their attention to wander from the car and the task of operating their vehicle.

According to the bulk of distracted driving experts, the bottom line is that drivers need to make a conscious decision to focus purely on driving while behind the wheel.

Of course, in our fast-paced society this is easier said than done. However, drivers can help themselves remain focused on the road by turning off their cell phones when they enter their vehicle and handling small tasks such as setting the GPS or opening a beverage before starting the car. Just this little bit of extra effort could go a long way in preventing a serious accident.

Source: New York Times, "Keeping Eyes on Distracted Driving's Toll." Jane E. Brody, April 11, 2011

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