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Cellphone dialing dangerous for experienced drivers, study says

Some of our recent posts have focused on distracted driving; which continues to be one of the most prevalent road hazards here in Tennessee and around the country. Texting while driving is strictly prohibited in most states, but there are other types of distraction that may be just as dangerous but have not been outlawed.

A recently published study in the New England Journal of Medicine tracked the distracted driving habits of both newly licensed drivers and those with decades of experience behind the wheel. One of the unsurprising findings is that novice drivers are more likely to get into a car accident or have a near-miss when any type of distraction takes their focus off the road. But the study also found that among seasoned drivers, simply dialing a cellphone proved to be the most dangerous source of distraction.

Researchers in the study tracked the behaviors of 42 newly licensed drivers and 109 individuals with an average of 20 years behind the wheel. All drivers were tracked for 12 to 18 months in vehicles equipped with cameras, GPS devices, accelerometers and other monitoring gear.

Novice drivers were more likely than their experienced counterparts to be involved in a crash or a near-miss whenever they took their attention off the road. And while experienced drivers were generally safer while diverting their attention away from driving, dialing a cellphone proved to be dangerous. Researchers found that experienced drivers were nearly two-and-a-half times more likely to crash while dialing a phone.

The results of this study are significant because they provide an important reminder for both novice and experienced motorists. We all have a responsibility to keep our eyes on the road, our hands on the wheel and our minds on the task of driving.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “Dialing while behind the wheel is riskiest form of distracted driving,” Karen Kaplan, Jan. 1, 2014

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