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Distracted driving accident awareness a focus for Wisconsin DOT

The United States Congress decided that April is designated as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. This is partly because as many as 421,000 people suffered injuries and 3,328 people died in a distracted driving accident in 2012. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is hoping that its campaign during the month of April will raise awareness of this dangerous problem.

A main focus of the campaign is the use of electronic devices such as smart phones while driving. Texting while driving has received a great deal of attention lately due to the alarming rise in crashes where this was the official cause. However, it is not just texting that Wisconsin DOT officials say causes accidents.

Anything -- or anyone for that matter -- that takes a driver's focus off driving and the road is considered a distraction. Many people eat, put on makeup, shave and even search for an item while driving. It may not seem dangerous to some drivers to take their eyes off the road for what may be mere seconds, but it only takes seconds to become involved in an accident. Data from 2011 indicates that the largest group of drivers that is distracted while driving is that of those under the age of 20. Nearly 11 percent of fatal crashes involved a distracted driver in this age group.

Even knowing the risks, there may still be drivers who take their eyes and attention off the road. When an individual becomes the victim of a distracted driving accident and suffers serious injuries, he or she retains the right to file a personal injury claim against the driver found to be negligent. If the worst happens, and a victim dies, the family of that person also has the right to file a wrongful death claim against the party deemed responsible. If parties prevail in their civil claims, the court may award damages outlined in our state laws.

Source: hngnews.com, "Our view: Driver distraction month", Diane Graff, April 9, 2014

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