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The causes and risks of distracted driving in Georgia

Distracted driving is a growing problem that results in an average of approximately nine deaths and 1,150 injuries per day in the United States, according to statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Though the number of fatalities decreased slightly from 2011 to 2012, the number of people injured in an accident that involved a distracted driver actually increased about 9 percent during that period.

Distracted driving is the result of behavior that takes a person's attention away from driving. This can involve visual distraction, such as when the driver looks away from the road, manual distraction, which happens when drivers take their hands away from the steering wheel, and cognitive distraction, when a driver stops thinking about driving and thinks about something else.

Driving while distracted can lead to serious collisions. Younger, inexperienced drivers, particularly teenagers, are more prone to distracted driving, which quite often is the result of texting or other use of a cellphone while driving, and as a result, they have the highest proportion of involvement in fatal crashes that include distracted driving. A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention based upon 2011 data found that 69 percent of American drivers between the ages of 18 to 64 admitted to talking on their cellphones in the 30 days before they were surveyed, and that 31 percent of drivers in the same age bracket admitted to reading or sending texts and emails while driving in the previous 30 days. Another CDC study also found that the young drivers who admitted to texting while driving were also more likely to drink and drive or ride with a driver who had been drinking.

While it is illegal to text while driving in Georgia, the ban is unfortunately not universally followed. A 2009 executive order issued by President Obama prohibits government employees from texting and driving while on the job. More emphasis will have to be placed on the dangers of this behavior before positive results are seen.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Distracted Driving, accessed on Jan. 24, 2015

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