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If you're texting, you'd better not be driving


Heads up, Washington! April is Distracted Driving Awareness month, so make a commitment to leave your cell phone alone while you’re driving. Not only is it dangerous, but with extra officers looking for cell phone violators, you risk a ticket otherwise.

While many things can distract a driver, cell phones are the most dangerous. “Cell phones distract drivers differently than eating a hamburger or putting on make-up,” explains Angie Ward, Washington Traffic Safety Commission program manager.

“Holding a phone in your hand takes your hand off the wheel. Reading or entering data into your phone takes your eyes off the road. The biggest problem is that it takes your mind away from the tasks of driving.”

Cell phones cause crashes because they connect us to social and informational interchanges, explains Ward. This complex mental task creates a situation where a driver “looks” but doesn’t “see.”

Recent AAA research has shown that it takes nearly 30 seconds after ending the call or text for a driver’s mind to return its focus to driving.

One in 10 drivers and one-third of pedestrians were distracted by cell phone use, according to two studies conducted by the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center in Seattle.

“Taken together, this research has serious implications for people who think it’s safe to dial or send a text message at a stoplight” said Dr. Beth Ebel lead author of the Harborview studies. “Even if drivers stop talking or texting before the light turns green, they still don’t take in all the important elements in their surroundings for another 30 seconds. Couple this with pedestrians who may also be distracted and it’s a recipe for a trip to the emergency room, or worse.”

One out of five deadly crashes and one out of three serious injury crashes happen at or near an intersection, Ward notes.

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