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Washington Study Calls Attentionto Dangers of Driving Distractions

Posted Sep 13 2008 4:33pm

Barreling down Interstate 10 on Thursday, I had to dial a number, then punch a 7-digit code to partake in a conference call. I don’t do this very often, but I was running behind after spending much of the morning unpacking.

Most of us know that this is risky behavior, but it may be worse than we thought: distracted or drowsy drivers were responsible for 80 percent of car crashes in a Washington, D.C., area study. “This is a wake-up call to Americans to pay attention,” Jacqueline Glassman, acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, tells The Washington Post.

Fatigue was responsible for 20 percent of the crashes. Drivers 18-20 years old were the worse, having four times as many accidents or near-accidents as 35-year-olds. Drinking and driving were not taken into account in this study.

From a parenting perspective, putting your kids in the car is one of the most dangerous things you can do. Consider that there were 43,200 traffic fatalities in 2005, the NHTSA reports. But the total number of accidents is far higher.

Some states have passed laws limiting cell phone usage while driving. When on the East Coast last week, I noticed New York state had warnings that using handheld devices while driving was prohibited.

While states or municipalities can pass laws to limit cell phone usage, they are virtually impossible to enforce. That means the best you can do is control your own behavior and protect your children by driving the safest vehicle possible.

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