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Is distracted driving becoming harder to avoid?

It's no mystery that distracted driving is one of the most dangerous things a person can do, endangering thousands of lives and injuring thousands more. When cellphones first began gaining popularity, laws were slow to evolve, but soon lawmakers warned you and other drivers in Tennessee to use only hands-free devices.

Despite this, the rate of accidents caused by distracted drivers continued to rise, and studies revealed that hands-free doesn't necessarily mean distraction-free. In fact, taking your mind off the road may be as dangerous as taking your eyes from the road. Even with these findings, car manufacturers continue to cram dozens of distracting options onto the dashboards, consoles and steering wheels of their new models.

Distractions right in front of you

While more drivers are putting down their phones while behind the wheel, car manufacturers are making it easier for the distractions to continue nonetheless. Newer models of cars contain infotainment systems that offer you texting, internet, social media and other functions while you are driving. However, the car manufacturers seem to ignore the danger inherent in placing such irresistible devices so close at hand. Advances in technology allow you to control the devices in a variety of ways, including:

  • Rotary wheels and dials
  • Drawing pads
  • Touch screens
  • Dashboard push buttons
  • Voice activation

You would think that voice activation would be safer because it doesn't require you to take your eyes from the road; however, researchers found that the distraction of voice activation may be greater because you tend to interact with it longer than with other methods of control.

The most dangerous component in your infotainment system is the navigation program. During safety tests of 30 new cars with high-tech infotainment systems, the navigation system was the component that held the drivers' eyes and attention for the longest. It took test participants an average of 40 seconds — a full 10 seconds longer than the time it takes to send a text — to program a destination and activate navigation to that address.

Someone is paying attention

Safety advocates are urging auto manufacturers to include technology that would block access to the most distracting programs when your car is moving. Your cellphone may already have that capability.

Meanwhile, the best option for you and all drivers is to avoid any tasks behind the wheel that will take your eyes, hands or attention from the job of operating the vehicle safely. In 2015, almost 3,500 people died in accidents caused by distracted drivers. If you or a loved one were to face such a tragedy, you would certainly want someone to give full attention to your case and advocate for your cause.

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