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Reading this behind the wheel? You may be headed for an accident

Driving requires an incredible amount of focus and attention. Unfortunately, many people in Florida behind the wheel engage in unsafe behaviors that keep them from fully focusing on the task at hand. Whether a driver's eyes are not on the road or their focus is elsewhere, a distracted driver can cause serious harm.

Most people think of cellphones in relation to distracted driving. While smartphones are a common distraction, they are not the only thing that keeps drivers from keeping their eyes — and their minds — on the road.

Distracted driving has three components

A distracted driver is any person who engages in a non-driving activity while behind the wheel. This could be something as seemingly minor as searching for a specific radio station, or a more obvious distraction, such as reading or replying to a text message. These activities distract drivers in three main ways:

  • Cognitively
  • Manually
  • Visually

A cognitive distraction removes a person's mind and focus from the act of driving, manual distractions require a driver to remove his or her hands from the wheel and visual distractions keep a person's eyes off the road. Searching for a radio station and sending a text message can both satisfy all three types of distracted driving.

What if it only takes me a few seconds to check my phone?

Drivers sometimes have only a few seconds to avoid an accident. In a world where smart devices seem to constantly distract their users, drivers often miss those few, crucial seconds. This can be especially dangerous if drivers fail to apply the brakes before causing a high-speed collision.

Some people opt to use hands-free technology to continue accessing their phones while driving. Although this may seem like a safer option, current research says that it is not much better. Drivers using hands-free technology such as headsets or a speakerphone still tend to miss important indicators that could help prevent a crash.

Inexperienced drivers are frequent offenders

While it is important for everyone in Florida to focus on the road while driving, younger drivers should be especially vigilant as they continue to hone their driving skills. Unfortunately, research indicates that younger drivers — specifically those under the age of 20 — cause far more fatal accidents because of distracted driving than any other age group.

However, teenagers are not the only offenders. At almost any given time of day, drivers physically using a cellphone operate approximately 800,000 vehicles. This type of constant distracted driving puts other people at risk for serious injury and even death. Although nothing can ever undo the pain of an accident, most victims and families can recover related damages through successful personal injury or wrongful death suits.

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