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Distracted Driving: Widespread Problem in Tennessee and Nationwide

The issue of distracted driving has been gaining a lot of attention recently. Despite increased awareness, however, numerous drivers continue to engage in this dangerous behavior. This has prompted actions by lawmakers and federal officials.

Earlier this month Ray LaHood, the U.S. Transportation Secretary, released a proposal for addressing the problem of drivers using cell phones called the "Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving." The plan includes steps lawmakers, safety organizations, and the general public can take to prevent motor vehicle accidents caused by distracted driving. LaHood also announced funding for a pilot enforcement campaign titled "Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other."

At least 3,000 people lose their lives each year due to crashes related to distracted driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Distracted driving includes any activity which takes a driver's attention away from driving. There are three main types of distraction:

  • Visual: not keeping your eyes on the road
  • Manual: not keeping your hands on the steering wheel
  • Cognitive: not keeping your mind on driving

Distractions include activities like eating, putting on makeup, or adjusting the GPS or radio. Texting while driving is a particularly harmful distraction since it involves all three types of distractions. When a driver texts while driving he or she generally take their eyes off the road for four to six seconds. When driving at highway speeds this translates to the length of a football field, plenty of time for an accident to occur.

Over 100,000 drivers are texting at any moment of the day, according to observational studies. Young drivers are among those most likely to text while driving, and also the most at risk for distraction-related crashes because of their inexperience behind the wheel.

In Tennessee, texting while driving is prohibited. Drivers with learners' permits or intermediate licenses are prohibited from all cellphone use. Bus drivers are also prohibited from using cellphones while transporting children. Although recently legislators introduced several bills to ban cellphone use by all drivers in school zones, none of the measures passed.

Source: Tennessee Attorneys Memo, "Distracted driving campaign gains national momentum," June 25, 2012.

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