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What makes texting while driving so dangerous?

There's always been some sort of distracted driving, if you think about it. Adjusting a car radio and talking to kids in the back seat are both normal activities. Eating a quick bite or having a cup of coffee is common as well. So why has distracted driving become such a big problem over the past 10 years? And why is texting and driving, in particular, considered so dangerous?

The reason has to do with the different types of distractions we all face while driving. They can be divided into three basic categories: visual, manual and cognitive. How are those defined?

*Visual includes, very simply, a driver not looking at the road. Any time a person glances away to look at a map, a phone screen or a passenger takes attention off their driving.

*Manual distractions can be putting on makeup, brushing hair, adjusting the radio or eating and drinking. Other manual activities include texting, searching websites and updating social media. Using a GPS or entering an address into a cell phone is another manual distraction.

* Cognitive refers to activities that make you think and focus on something else. If you're talking to people in the car or on a cellphone (even a hands-free device), then you're thinking about what to say or listening intently to the conversation and not focusing on the road as much as you could.

As you can see, texting while driving is extremely dangerous because it uses all three types of distractions. You're looking away from the road at your phone as you compose a text, you're manually typing the words (no matter how short they are or even if they're emojis) and your mind is elsewhere for the time that you're texting.

How long do drivers look away from the road when sending a text? The average amount of time is five seconds. If a car is traveling at 55 miles per hour, that's enough time to travel 100 yards. Needless to say, a lot can happen in 100 yards on a highway. That's why deaths that involved distracted driving reached approximately 3,500 in 2015.

What can you do?

While road safety advocates work to address the problem with fixes that might include a "driver mode" for phones that would limit their functions, it's likely going to be up to drivers to get rid of their own distractions. Accidents happen for many reasons, but if you've been hurt in an accident and you suspect the other driver was texting, that's not okay. Talk to an attorney about your options.

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