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Virginia Tech study shows risks of distracted drivers

Whether one is behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler or a moped, it is imperative to devote one's full attention to the road ahead. However, in today's high-tech world, distractions can prove more dangerous for drivers than ever before. According to information from the Virginia Tech Traffic Institute, distracted driving contributed to 6,000 fatalities in America in 2010, the most recent year such data is available. Moreover, distracted driving was a factor in 500,000 injuries.

Adding to these alarming statistics is the fact that driving while distracted can be deadly no matter which type of vehicle one is operating. Trucking accidents caused by distracted driving can lead to catastrophic injuries or worse, as the size differential between tractor-trailers and personal vehicles can be vast.

The Virginia Tech study categorized distractions as belonging to several different groups: visual, manual and cognitive. In the first group, anything that diverts a driver's vision from the road poses a threat. This can include reading a billboard of looking at a cellphone screen.

The second category includes things that cause a person to remove their hands from their steering wheel, such as adjusting mirrors or picking an item up off a floorboard. Finally, the third grouping includes things that lead a driver to think about things other than driving. This can entail a cellphone conversation, entering directions into a GPS, or even just daydreaming.

Unfortunately, many of the above actions are performed every day by truckers on Virginia's roads. With accident victims of distracted driving numbering in the hundreds of thousands, it's important for those affected to know their rights. Driver error is a leading cause of trucking accidents, and properly trained investigators can go a long way in accurately determining if distractions were present in an accident. If they were, victims may be entitled to compensation for the damages suffered as a result.

Source: The Anderson Valley Post, "CHP: Distractions cause accidents," George L. Winship, Feb. 12, 2013

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