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Distracted Driving and Disaster – Nov. 4, 2013

On May 6th of this year, Arizona Department of Public Safety officer Tim Huffman was killed when he was struck by a tractor trailer that careened into three police cars and two fire trucks that were responding to a road side accident.  News reports out today indicate that the dashcam of the semi recorded the truck driver using Facebook at the time of the crash.  Phone records confirmed the video. The driver is now facing twenty felony charges, including second degree murder.

This is just today’s example of the growing dangers of distracted driving that was highlighted in a recent study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. The study, entitled The Impact of Hand-Held and Hands-Free Cell Phone Use on Driving Performance and Safety Critical Event Risk,  indicates that personal device usage increases the risk of accidents by three times.

The study found among other things that:

Drivers take their eyes of the road for the longest duration while text messaging, browsing and dialing their phones.

Text messaging resulted in drivers taking their eyes off the road an average of 23 total seconds.

Activities performed while completing a phone call – such as reaching for the phone, looking up a contact and dialing, increased crash risk by three times.

The full report can be found here:  http://www.nhtsa.gov/Research/Crash+Avoidance/Office+of+Crash+Avoidance+Research+Technical+Publications

This growing problem is also highlighted in a recent Boston Globe article which suggests that personal device use involves psychological habits and processes that are not easily solved by laws proscribing their usage while driving.  http://theweek.com/article/index/252059/texting-and-driving-a-deadly-habit 

Clearly, more research and intervention is needed to develop successful strategies to reduce the senseless carnage caused by this recent and growing threat.

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