Although most Massachusetts drivers feel they can do two things at once, statistics clearly show that is not the case when it comes to driving. Ever since we started taking cell phones and digital music players with us everywhere we went – including behind the wheel – more than ever we are often make driving the secondary activity rather than the most important one.

It should come as so surprise that distracted drivers make up a large portion of the traffic accidents in the United States. In fact, distracted driving accidents claimed the lives of almost 5,500 people in 2009 and caused approximately 500,000 injuries. That makes up nearly 20 percent of injury crashes, accordingly to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The statistics are staggering and frightening. The lesson to be learned is simple: don’t be a distracted driver.

As a population we have made huge strides to stop drinking and driving. But distracted drivers have reflexes similar to someone with a .08 blood alcohol level, which is considered legally drunk and punishable with fines, jail time or both.

Distracted Driving

Safety experts define distracted driving as any non-driving activity drivers engage in that potentially distracts them from the primary responsibility of driving. While all distractions are dangerous, texting is the most dangerous because it requires coordinating the use of your hands, eyes and attention. Other distractions include using a cell phone, eating and drinking, talking to passengers, putting on make-up or other grooming, reading, watching a video or adjusting your MP3 player.

The Governor’s Highway Safety Association notes that 34 states have banned texting behind the wheel. This fact should be enough for drivers to realize the risks are great and the consequences severe. Even the state of Massachusetts banned texting while driving in 2010 with the goal of saving lives and creating safer roads. The law “prohibits the use of any handheld device capable of accessing the Internet to compose, send or read an electronic message while operating a motor vehicle.” It also prohibits 16- and 17-year-old drivers from using a phone or other similar device while driving.

A personal injury attorney can help those injured by a distracted driver.