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Drivers using phones in ways that increase accident risks

These days, drivers in California and other parts of the United States are doing many things on their phones other than talking. Even though drivers aren't having verbal conversations on their devices as much, they're actually fiddling with them more. This is the main takeaway from an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study that compares survey data from 2014 and 2018.

IIHS researchers didn't find an increase in overall instances of distracting driving. However, the shift to an increasing manipulation of phones while driving is linked to a greater crash risk. In fact, researchers estimate that nearly 1,000 crash-related deaths that occurred in the United States in 2017 were related to instances of drivers using their phones for non-verbal tasks.

The IIHS report also notes that the way a driver uses their phone influences their road behavior. For instance, people having a conversation while operating their vehicles tend to keep their focus on the center of the road. However, drivers are more likely to take their eyes off the road entirely while sending texts, dialing, using apps or performing similar tasks.

The report also mentioned that drivers tend to be distracted more often by secondary sources, such as drinking coffee and talking to other passengers. According to federal data, distracted driving only accounts for about 8-10 percent of the overall crash-related death toll; although, researchers believe these figures are probably higher due to limitations with how such data is collected.

Vehicle accidents attributed to distracted drivers often involve some type of negligence as well. For this reason, it's common for victims or their surviving family members to consult with attorneys to explore legal options. If there is some doubt about what may have contributed to an accident, a lawyer may look at the driver's phone records to determine what they were doing with their device at the time of the incident. Responsible parties may be required to provide appropriate compensation for medical expenses and other financial losses.

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