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Does distracted driving really up the risk of a car accident?

Using a cellphone and engaging in other distracting behaviors while driving has been proven to increase the risk of a car accident in various studies throughout recent years.

Which behaviors are more dangerous, however, can depend on the age and experience of the driver. Distracted driving behaviors that involve cellphones include but are not limited to driving and texting, talking while holding a handset and browsing social media or other websites.

A study appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at the different types of distracted driving behaviors, taking into consideration the driver's age and years of experience driving. That study found that some behaviors are riskier than others.

Talking on a handset was not linked to an increased crash risk in experienced motorists, but dialing a number on the phone while driving increased the risk of a car accident for drivers of all experience levels. Texting and driving, reaching for the phone or another object or engaging in any behaviors that require the driver to take their eyes off the road all increased the risk of a crash for both novice and experienced drivers.

The study also found that the crash risk for young or beginner drivers was more affected by distracted behaviors and that this demographic was also more likely to engage in distracted driving behaviors as time went on. Researchers believe this may be due to an increase in driving confidence as the driver gains more experience.

Understanding the risks of distracted driving behaviors is the first step for Wisconsin residents trying to keep the roads as safe as possible. When an accident caused by a distracted driver does occur, those injured may have legal options to pursue compensation through the courts.

Source: The New England Journal of Medicine, "Distracted Driving and Risk of Road Crashes among Novice and Experienced Drivers" Sheila G. Klauer, Ph.D., Jul. 13, 2014

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