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Distracted driving laws give false sense of security

As most West Virginia residents know, we are prohibited from using our cell phones while we’re driving. Of course, you can still make and receive calls while you’re behind the wheel as long as you’re doing it with a hands-free device.

A recent magazine article pointed out the passage of hands-free restrictions has made many people feel as if legislators have taken care of the distracted driving problem. The personal injury attorney who wrote the piece insists that this roadway safety dilemma has not been solved at all.

Instead, what we have really done with hands-free restrictions is create an illusion that distracted driving is about where your hands are while you’re behind the wheel. The real problem is, of course, that the mind is distracted.

Real world consequences

Distracted drivers aren’t paying attention to streets and traffic. They are instead focused on their phone, their text, their conversation and so on. “Drivers aren’t driving recklessly because they have a soda in their hand,” the Texas attorney writes. “They are dangerous because their minds are elsewhere.”

He cites a couple of cases. In one, a salesperson was on the phone talking for 20 minutes to an important customer on a hands-free device. The call ended when she caused a crash and killed two people. “The phone call didn’t cause the fatalities despite there being a hands-free policy in place, but because of it,” the attorney writes.

In the other case, a driver was going more than 80 mph when she came upon two cars stopped on the shoulder. Three people were fixing a tire on one of the vehicles. She didn’t slow and she didn’t change lanes. She was busy with a hands-free device instead of thinking carefully about what to do to avoid the cars and people. She chose poorly, using her turn signal before slamming into the three pedestrians.

You can make better choices for yourself, those in your vehicle and those with whom you share the roads by turning off your device and focusing on what’s most important.

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