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Study finds car accident risk varies with different phone tasks

Young Wisconsin drivers might not be in as much danger from talking on a cell phone while driving than when preparing to make the call, according to a new study. Research from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute reported that cell activities that require drivers to remove their eyes from the road raise the risk of an auto accident. This included texting, dialing and just reaching for a phone. Surprisingly, the study showed that merely talking on a cell phone did not increase the danger of a crash; however, some faulted the report for not making a distinction between talking on a handheld device and using hands-free technology.

The findings came after researchers monitored drivers in a real-world setting using global positioning systems, lane trackers, video cameras installed inside vehicles and other sensors to report factors, such as speed and acceleration. The devices kept track of 42 newly licensed drivers under the age of 18 as well as 109 drivers with at least 20 years of driving experience.

The report poses a paradoxical situation, critics said, because although the study finds talking on the phone to be safer than reaching for a cell phone or dialing it, at least one of these actions must be taken before a driver can have a conversation on the device. These things reportedly increased the danger of a crash, even if the actual talking on the phone did not.

Texting and driving is not only illegal in many states, but it can also lead to a car accident resulting in serious injury or death. A head-on collision due to a distracted driver can cause victims to pay high medical expenses for treatment of those injuries. Individuals who have been hurt by a negligent driver may be able to seek financial compensation for their injuries.

Source: CBS News, "Distracted driving study: Cell phone dialing, texting dangerous. Talking? Less so.", January 02, 2014

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