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Do you really understand the risks of distracted driving?

The scary thing about distracted driving is that, much like drunk driving, the people who engage in the behavior are unlikely to admit that it impairs their driving. Distracted driving is a crime in Tennessee, but, more importantly, this behavior puts everyone else on the road at risk.

How much of a threat is distracted driving? According to the Centers for Disease Control's motor vehicle safety statistics, it's a serious one. Every day, nine people across the United States die in collisions caused by distracted drivers. There are also more than 1,000 people who sustain serious injuries in distraction-related crashes every day.

Distractions come from all kinds of sources

When people talk about distracted driving, they are almost always talking about cellphones. Mobiles devices, text messaging and social media can all inspire people to look away from the road. Of course, texting isn't a one-off process. Typing out even a short message can take a few seconds. Unfortunately, if you're traveling at 55 miles per hour, that means you'll have traveled the length of a football field by the time you finish your five-second text. It's easy to see how this can result in a crash.

Looking away from the road isn't the only kind of distraction. You may choose to take your hands off the wheel. Maybe you're applying makeup, adjusting your clothing, picking up something that fell off the seat or even changing the song playing. The extra second it'll take for you to grip the wheel again can be the difference between an avoided crash and a catastrophic collision.

Distractions can also be mental. You may be looking forward with your hands on the wheel, but if you're in the middle of an intense conversation on the phone or an argument with a passenger, you may be driving on auto-pilot. Any sudden changes in front of you, like a driver stopping quickly, could result in a crash because of an increased response time.

Driving should always be your main focus

There are thousands of accidents around the state every day, and far too many of them are preventable. Taking steps to limit your own distraction protects you, everyone in your vehicle and around you on the roads. Distracted driving is illegal, but that's not the only reason you should avoid it. You should always focus fully on the road and the operation of your vehicle to ensure everyone on the road is safe.

When you're paying full attention to the road, you will also be more likely to notice the erratic or unusual driving of someone else who is distracted at the wheel. That, in turn, can help you avoid that vehicle in traffic, reducing your risk of an accident caused by someone else.

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