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Distraction-related pedestrian deaths up by 50 percent, report shows

The number of pedestrians killed by distracted drivers has spiked by about 50 percent since 2005, a recent study shows.
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    December 19, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Distraction-related pedestrian deaths up by 50 percent, report shows

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Distracted driving has been a persistent problem in Idaho and throughout the United States for the past several years, and motorists are not the only ones paying the price. A recent study shows that pedestrian deaths caused by distracted driving have risen sharply as more and more people split their attention between driving and other activities like eating, texting or talking on the phone.

Overall traffic deaths have been declining nationwide, but fatal pedestrian and bicycle accidents have been on the rise. According to a report published in the November-December 2013 edition of Public Health Reports, the number of pedestrians struck and killed by distracted drivers in the U.S. increased nearly 50 percent between 2005 and 2010, from 344 deaths to 500. During the same period, bicycle deaths caused by distracted driving increased by 30 percent, from 56 to 73.

Adults, not teens, cause most distraction deaths

The study, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, relied on government crash data drawn from the U.S. Fatality Analysis Reporting System. Although teen drivers often take the blame for the distracted driving epidemic, the UNMC study shows that adult male drivers between the ages of 25 and 64 were responsible for the largest number of distraction-related pedestrian and cyclist deaths.

In a recent UNMC press release, the study's author explained that a relative lack of social stigma about cellphone use while driving may help explain why distraction-related accidents remain so common, despite major improvements in other areas of traffic safety. Unlike other risky driving behaviors like choosing not to wear a seatbelt or failing to use a child safety seat, which are widely frowned upon, using a cellphone while driving remains widespread and, unfortunately, relatively socially acceptable. Not only that, he says, but distracted driving laws are often relatively lax and can be more difficult to enforce than other traffic safety laws.

Distracted driving in Utah

Utah made headlines in 2009 when it passed the nation's strictest ban on texting while driving. Unlike similar laws in other states, which often penalize distracted drivers with nothing more than a small fine, Utah's texting ban imposes steep penalties on violators. Even without causing an accident, drivers caught texting in Utah can face up to three months in jail and a $750 fine, while texting drivers who cause fatal accidents in Utah can be imprisoned for up to 15 years and fined as much as $10,000.

Despite the state's strict stance, however, distracted driving accidents in Utah continue to occur on a regular basis. In 2012, for example, 20 people were killed as a result of distracted driving in Utah, and many more were injured.

Distracted drivers who kill or injure other people in Utah can be held civilly liable for the harm they cause in addition to any criminal consequences they may be facing. People who have been hurt or lost a family member as a result of a distracted driver in Utah should speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer to learn about their legal rights and the compensation that may be available to them.

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