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Did you see that? If not, you might be driving while distracted

Any time you divert your attention from driving, you risk your life and the lives of everyone around you, including your passengers. If you take your eyes off the road for even a few seconds, you could cause an accident. With the invention of texting, the problem seems to have increased exponentially.

What qualifies as a distraction?

Anything that takes your attention off the road qualifies as a distraction. In addition to texting, some of the most common distractions include the following:

  • Using a cell phone
  • Using a smartphone
  • Drinking or eating
  • Smoking
  • Reading
  • Using a navigation system
  • Watching a video
  • Adjusting the temperature
  • Adjusting the radio, MP3 player or CD player
  • Disciplining or attending to children

Of course, this list doesn't include every distraction, but it gives you an idea of the activities you might engage in while driving that distract you from driving.

Three types of distractions

Researchers break down distractions into three categories:

  • Visual
  • Cognitive
  • Manual

In recent years, texting gained so much attention as a distraction because it falls into all three categories at once. Looking at or sending a text takes approximately five seconds. During this time, your vehicle travels approximately 300 feet at highway speeds without your control. That might not seem like a long distance, but a lot could happen to the traffic pattern in that amount of time.

In 2009, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration determined that a texting driver's risk of crashing increases by 23 percent more than without the distraction. Another study showed that talking on your cell phone increases your risk by nearly four times; that's the same risk as if you had decided to drink and drive. Researchers disagree as to what percentage of accidents involves a distracted driver. Teens run the highest risk since they tend to underestimate their ability to do more than one thing at a time, especially when one of those things involves driving.

So what do I do if a distracted driver crashed into me?

After you receive the medical care you need, you might benefit from contacting an attorney. An investigation into the crash and the activities of those involved prior to it could provide evidence that the driver failed to pay attention due to a distraction. This provides you with proof of negligence, which could result in an award of damages to help you with your medical expenses, lost income and any other damages you sustained in connection with the accident.

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