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Riskier ways of using phones cause greater driver distraction

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has released a report on distracted driving that should prove interesting to many in West Virginia. Researchers focused on two surveys from 2014 and 2018; in these, drivers in four Northern Virginia communities were observed for distracted behavior while approaching or stopped at red lights. While distracted driving rates did not change much in that period, the ways that drivers were distracted did.

Specifically, drivers in 2018 were 57 percent more likely to use their phone for something other than talking. This includes texting, sending emails and surfing the web. The change is worrying because operating the phone rather than just talking on it takes drivers' attention completely off the road.

In fact, operating a phone raises the risk for a fatal car crash by 66 percent. Other research shows that it contributes to more than 800 car crash fatalities every year in the U.S. The IIHS found how even secondary actions, such as eating, drinking and conversing with passengers, can compromise a driver's ability to process what is in front of them.

Distracted driving accounts for about 8 to 10 percent of all car crash deaths. Many cases of distracted driving go unreported, though, since drivers may lie about what they were doing prior to a crash or refuse to relinquish their phones to the police for inspection.

Different forms of negligent driving will require different evidence to prove. In the case of distracted driving, the most important types of evidence will be the police report and the other driver's phone records. Victims who intend to file a claim may see a lawyer, who in turn might hire investigators to gather this and other proof. The lawyer may then be able to negotiate for a settlement with the auto insurance company, taking the case to court if negotiations fall through.

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