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Tragic consequences of distracted driving

A recent fatal rollover accident on Colorado's I-70 highway was apparently caused by distracted driving. The driver, only 15-years-old, was driving legally. He had an instruction permit and was accompanied by a licensed driver in the front passenger seat.

It was reported that the young driver was distracted by the car radio when the vehicle went off the road and rolled a full turn and a half, settling on its top. The 44-year-old front seat passenger died at the scene. A 17-year-old passenger in the back seat was seriously hurt but is expected to recover from his injuries. The 15-year-old driver was also injured.


According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, fatalities in motor vehicle accidents involving a distracted driver rose slightly from 2010 to 2011, with 3,267 deaths in 2010 and 3,331 in 2011.

Injuries in these distracted driving accidents declined somewhat, from 416,000 in 2010 to 387,000 in 2011, but the total is still too high. Almost one in five of all reported crashes involving injuries in the country in 2010 involved a distracted driver.

The NHTSA lists a variety of causes of driver distraction. They may include any of the following:

  • Using a cell phone or smart phone for talking or texting
  • Talking with others in the car
  • Reading maps or other materials
  • Consuming food or beverages
  • Interacting with electronics, such as a navigation system, video screen or music player
  • Manipulating radio controls

Distractions caused by the use of cell phones, especially texting, have received considerable attention recently.

Texting's dangers

Texting is particularly dangerous because it takes several kinds of attention - cognitive, visual and manual. The popularity of texting is huge and on the rise, with an estimated 196 billion text messages sent or received during June 2011 in the United States, 50 percent more than in June 2009.

The NHTSA reports that a driver who is texting has a 23 times higher risk of getting into an accident than a driver who is not distracted. Sending or receiving a text takes the driver's attention away from the road for 4.6 seconds on average. In that time, a vehicle going 55 miles per hour travels the length of a football field with a driver who is not fully engaged with the task of driving.

Distracted youth

Drivers under age 20 are most likely to be distracted. Among drivers in this age group who were involved in fatal crashes, like the 15-year-old in the Colorado rollover, 11 percent were distracted when the accidents happened.

Drivers are responsible for their actions, and if someone is hurt or killed due to driver negligence, it may be possible to recover financial damages. A personal injury attorney can file a claim seeking compensation for medical care, lost earnings and pain and suffering, along with wrongful death benefits for survivors if a loved one died.

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