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Distracted driving: more than just cellphones

Distracted driving is one of - if not the - leading causes of car accidents in Pennsylvania and across the country. If you've spent any time on the road at all, whether during your daily commute or while on a family vacation, you know that irresponsible drivers are everywhere.

News reports and public safety campaigns aimed at curbing the use of handheld cellphones have drawn nationwide attention to the dangers associated with both texting and talking on a handheld phone behind the wheel, but those are certainly not the only hazards drawing the focus of drivers away from the road.

"Old school" to high tech

For as long as drivers have been behind the wheel, they have found their attention diverted to things other than the task of safe driving. Prior to the advent of cellphones, text messages, mp3 players, GPS, social media, behind-the-wheel "selfies" and other high tech gadgets, accident-causing distractions were much less technological in nature, but they still existed, and are still tempting drivers today.

Are you one of the countless drivers who need a dose of caffeine to kick your brain into gear in the mornings? Your morning latte could pose a big problem if your travel mug were to leak, and every time you reach down to pick it up from the cup holder, your focus is momentarily diverted away from the road. The same is true of the bagel you're trying to eat while speeding down the highway. It seems innocuous, but you're still pulling your eyes off the road ahead every time you look over to pick it up or take a bite.

Other old-fashioned distractions with the potential to cause serious, injury-causing car accidents include:

  • Grooming - anything from brushing your hair to putting on makeup can distract you long enough to cause a fateful mistake
  • Reading - whether on a tablet or a newspaper, a paper map or a printed set of turn-by-turn directions
  • Changing the music selection on the FM or satellite radio, a CD or an mp3 player
  • Talking to passengers - a lively conversation can be engrossing and very distracting, particularly if you are a person who uses hand gestures or enjoys making eye contact with the people with whom you are conversing
  • Eating and drinking - taking a swig from a water bottle or picking up a sandwich can both impair your vision and distract you, in addition to requiring you to take your hand off the wheel; it's best to save your drinks and snacks to times when you aren't engaged in the act of driving

Hopefully, this list has helped you and other drivers realize that tasks that would be innocuous when performed outside of a moving vehicle could actually prove disastrous when done while behind the wheel. Do yourself - and your fellow motorists a favor - stay attentive to the act of driving at all times to keep everyone on the road safer. If you were in fact being a good driver but were hurt by the distracted driving of another motorist, then contact a local personal injury attorney to learn more about your legal rights and options.

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