By Rachael Gilmer

November 4th, 2012  10:00am

Distracted driving is driving while doing any activity that takes your attention away from the task at hand – driving.  Distracted driving is responsible for more than 5,000 deaths and close to 450,000 accidents in the U.S. every year. Many blame this problem on teen drivers, but in reality drivers young and old drive distracted every day.  Distracted driving activities include things like using a cell phone, texting, and eating. Using in-vehicle technologies (such as navigation systems) can also be sources of distraction.

While any of these distractions can endanger the driver and others, texting while driving is especially dangerous because it involves taking your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel and your mind off what you are supposed to be doing. Drivers who use handheld devices are 4 times more likely to get into an injury-producing crash and text messaging creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted.  Sending/ receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds—the equivalent of driving 55mph down an entire football field with your eyes closed.

These are just a few of the startling and tragic statistics that result from distracted driving.  State and Federal governments are passing laws limiting and even prohibiting cell phone usage while driving.  Unfortunately in Florida, preemption law prohibits localities from enacting distracted driving bans. The best way to end distracted driving is to educate all Americans about the danger it poses.  Numerous public interest groups have started campaigns to bring awareness to drivers about the risks of not only driving distracted, but of riding with a distracted driver.  We must speak up for our own safety and the safety of others in order to end this epidemic.

Rachael Gilmer is a lawyer in Levin Papantonio’s personal injury department.  She is also a volunteer speaker for the EndDD – End Distracted Driving.  Mrs. Gilmer has spoken at numerous local high schools about the risks associated with driving distracted. 

More information on automobile accidents.

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Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer magazine and a contributing writer at DeSmogBlog.com. He also hosts the weekly DeSmogCAST and serves as co-host for Ring of Fire on Free Speech TV. His writings have appeared on Alternet, Truthout, and The Huffington Post. Farron received his bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of West Florida in 2005 and became a member of American MENSA in 2009. Follow him on Twitter @farronbalanced