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Greater risks associated with certain types of phone use

There is always some type of risk associated with driving and using a cellphone in Pennsylvania or any other state. A new study finds that this risk is even greater when drivers use their phones for purposes other than talking. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study is based on a comparison of driver surveys from 2014 and 2018. They found that drivers were nearly 60 percent more likely to observed using their phones for purposes other than talking, such as texting and checking emails.

A comparison of survey years didn't show an increase in distracted driving. However, the results do reflect conclusions from other studies suggesting that drivers are operating their phones more as they talk less. Based on research showing that the risk of fatal car accidents is nearly 70 percent higher when drivers are controlling a phone, IIHS researchers estimate that more than 800 U.S. vehicle collision deaths that occurred in 2017 may be attributable to drivers doing things with their devices other than talking.

The report also notes that the way drivers use their phones affects how much they pay attention to the road. When engaged in conversation, for example, drivers tend to focus their gaze on the middle of the road in front of them. However, drivers are more likely to take their eyes off the road when using their phone to browse, use apps or text. Additionally, results show that secondary behaviors such as keeping an eye on kids, sipping coffee and talking to passengers are as likely to distract drivers as cellphones.

Researchers caution that there are some limitations with how driver data is obtained since it's largely dependent on surveyed drivers being honest about their habits behind the wheel. Still, an attorney may be able to help a car accident victim determine how to proceed legally if it's believed that a distracted driver's negligence contributed to the incident. Even when a driver claims they weren't distracted, a personal injury attorney may review cellphone records to identify what activities they were engaged in at the time of the accident. Accounts from witnesses and traffic or cellphone footage might provide additional evidence.

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