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Don’t text and drive: Distracted drivers cause accidents and death

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Most of us have experienced distractions of one sort or another while driving, but did you know the consequences you might face if your distractions cause an accident? In Kentucky, all drivers are now prohibited by law from texting while driving. The law was signed in 2010. In 2011, 176 people were killed in distracted driver-related accidents in the state.

Distracted drivers (those who engage in other activities while driving) who ignore this law can be held legally and financially responsible for damages caused by their actions. Motorists in 38 other states and Washington, D.C., are also banned from texting while driving. The list of states with similar bans may continue to grow following recently publicized incidents across the country.

For example, a South Dakota man is facing manslaughter charges after he caused a fatal multi-vehicle accident while texting behind the wheel. If convicted, this distracted driver could face life in prison for his carelessness. Following this tragedy, Sioux Falls has considered prohibiting texting while driving and other forms of distracted driving. Other South Dakota communities plan to pursue similar laws if Sioux Falls passes their distracted driving ordinance.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving is the main cause of most accidents. NHTSA notes three different types of driving distraction:

Visual – taking your eyes off the road

Manual – taking your hands off the wheel

Cognitive – taking your mind off  what you’re doing

Texting may be more dangerous than other activities, such as eating or talking on a cell phone, because it involves all three types of distraction.

Be safe and do not text while behind the wheel. Responsible driving will not only save lives and avoid major injuries, but also could keep you out of jail due to growing legal repercussions. Safe driving avoids possible civil suits for injury or wrongful death and could potentially save your family from financial ruin.

To learn more about Kentucky laws concerning texting and cell-phone use while driving, contact the Trimble County Cooperative Extension Office at (502) 255-7188 and ask for the publication, “Cell Phones, Distracted Driving, and Crash Risks.” Or you can go to the following Web site to view or download the publication: http://www.ca.uky.edu/hes/fcs/factshts/FRM-RHF-137.pdf.

References: Associated Press. (2012, July 30). Texting driver in South Dakota charged with manslaughter. Insurance Journal. Retrieved August 6, 2012, from http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/midwest/2012/07/30/257517.htm#.

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, Office of Highway Safety. (n.d.).Kentucky safety facts: Distracted driving. Retrieved August 7, 2012, from http://transportation.ky.gov/Highway-Safety/Documents/Distracted.pdf.

Source: Robert H. Flashman, Extension Specialist for Family Resource Management and R. Renee Setari, Graduate Student, University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture

Jane Proctor is Trimble County’s Cooperative Extension agent for family and consumer services.