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Everyday drivers are seen driving while on their cell phones talking, dialing, and texting. Because cell phones and other common electronic devices like PDAs, MP3 players, Ipods, and GPS devises, to name a few, have such appeal, there is a very good chance that any vehicle involved in a crash was operated by a driver who was distracted by one or more these devices.

No generation is outside the realm for driving while distracted, but the appeal these electronic devices have on young drivers, coupled with their lack of driving experience, adds to the risk that young drivers will be involved in automobile crashes.

In support of legislation to outlaw driving while text-messaging, Washington State Rep., Joyce McDonald, said:

Text-messaging requires a greater level of concentration than other activities in the car. An average driver trying to text-message takes his or her eyes off the road at least 14 times every 30 seconds to look at the screen or use the key pad. That’s a recipe for disaster.

In a study used to quantify distractions while driving, it was found that a driver using a cell phone was four times as likely to get into an accident as someone who was not. Someone text-messaging while driving was six times as likely to be in an accident as someone who was not. Another study found drivers who text-message are 23 percent slower to brake.

The cell phone industry has reported that texting use increased 95 percent from 2005 to 2006. Given the increase, it seems reasonable to infer that unsafe texting while driving also rose. In yet another study, 13 percent of teen drivers admitted to text-messaging while driving. AAA has reported that the number may be as high as 46 percent.

Many states now regulate cell phone use, but in different ways. Not all states have blanket prohibitions on cell phone use or requirements for hands-free devices. Some states identify classes of drivers, such as by age or bus and taxi drivers who are prohibited from using cell phones except in emergency situations. Washington State has prohibited text-messaging while driving altogether. Legislation is pending in other states.

Below are safety tips with regard to cell phone use while driving:

1. When behind the wheel, safe and responsible driving is always your first priority.
2. Do not manually dial or look up phone numbers when driving. Preprogram important and frequently dialed numbers and use the voice-activated and speed-dialing features of your phone. Do not take notes, check or send e-mail, text messages, or picture messages while driving.
3. Using a wireless phone while driving may increase your risk of distraction, whether or not you use a hands-free device. To eliminate this risk, consider turning your phone off and allowing calls to go to voice mail.
4. The risk of using a wireless phone while driving may be increased during hazardous traffic or weather conditions. When driving in these conditions, consider turning your phone off and allowing calls to go to voice mail.
5. If you choose to talk and drive, always use a hands-free device. Make sure your hands-free device is on and working before driving.
6. Do not engage in complex, stressful, or emotional calls while driving.
7. Know your wireless phone number so emergency personnel can call you back. You may want to write it down and keep it in your care for quick reference.

The above tips seem to be common sense. However, the dangers presented by
driving while distracted are so prevalent, that we should pass along the information and educate our friends and family about the need for safety while driving.

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