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Distracted driving often occurs without us even realizing it. We could be checking our cell phones or fiddling with the radio. Now, thanks to a $50 million study by the University of South Florida in which cameras will be placed in cars, we might get a better idea about how distracted we really are when we are behind the wheel.

Transportation researchers are looking for 450 local drivers, and as many as 3,000 others across the country, to film for a year, the Tampa Tribune reports. About 120 people have already signed up for what promises to be one of the largest studies to date of driver behavior.

As experienced Virginia-based accident injury attorneys who see the dreadful toll of distracted driving on a weekly basis, we welcome the study, which could lead to changes in driving laws, the way roads are built and the way cars are designed. A smaller earlier study in which Virginia Tech reseaecher videotaped drivers showed that 80 percent of all crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes involved driver inattention within three seconds of the crash. Texting was the most significant distraction associated with wrecks.

Earlier this month we reported that while fewer drivers, passengers and other people who share Virginia’s roads and highways were being injured, those who did end up in wrecks that caused injuries or deaths were increasingly likely to be distracted. According to the Virginia DMV, injuries and deaths due to distracted driving rose by 22 percent for the last five years up to 2009.

Earlier this year I reported how laws to counter distracted driving in Virginia remain weak. A number of bills to strengthen restrictions on using a cell phone to talk or text while driving failed to progress in the 2011 session of the Virginia Legislature. This disappointing trend goes back at least to 2008, when lawmakers in Virginia voted to make distracted driving a secondary traffic violation instead of a primary one.

It is to be hoped that large-scale research like that proposed by the University of South Florida, will persuade states to take tougher action against the escalating problem of distracted driving.


About the Editors: The Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.

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