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Just how dangerous is texting while driving?

It is common knowledge that distracted driving greatly increases the risk of car accidents, but many people still drive while distracted despite this. Just in 2014 alone, more than 3,000 people were killed in car accidents that involved distracted driving, and that doesn't include the approximate 400,000 injuries that year from the same cause.

Distracted driving is becoming increasingly serious, not just in the number of lives it claims but also in the laws passed against it.

Why texting is so dangerous

There are three forms distracted driving can take. The main categories are:

1. Visual: looking away from the road, such as looking at a screen or at a passenger when talking to them

2. Manual: removing your hands from the wheel, such as when eating or navigating an iPod

3. Cognitive: mental distraction, such as talking on the phone or listening to a show

Just one of these types of distracted driving greatly increases the risk of harm to you and others on the road. However, the reason texting is cited as particularly dangerous is because it encapsulates all three of these. Texting requires you to look at your phone screen, type with at least one hand, and mentally focus on replying to a conversation at the same time.

Young people are more likely to be distracted while driving

People lower in age are higher at risk for distracted driving accidents. According to NHTSA, 38% of drivers using cell phones during a car crash are in their twenties. Teens are also at high risk, as cited by the CDC, having the largest proportion of distraction-related crashes in general.

If you are a parent, it is important to speak to your child about safe driving habits, especially the avoidance of texting or cell phone use.

The penalties for cell phone use while driving

In 2011, Delaware passed a law banning the use of hands-on phones and devices while driving. This means:

• No hand-held device use, such as phones, laptops, games, etc.

• No talking on the phone without a hands-free device

• No Internet use

Even for a first-time offense, violating this law can result in a $100 fine or more. Fines increase for repeat offenses, reaching up to at least $350.

Distracted driving can cost you significantly, not just in fines but in damages or fatal injury. Keep yourself and your family educated on the risks of distracted driving to protect the ones you care about.

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