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Distracted driving = car crashes

By Tara Baukus Mello ·
Saturday, December 17, 2011
Posted: 9 am ET

Using your cellphone could raise your car insurance rates -- if you have a car crash, that is. Cellphone usage, even hands-free, is considered one of the leading causes of distracted driving. It's consider by some to be so risky that the National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB, has issued a recommendation to U.S. states to ban all hands-free devices while driving.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, calls distracted driving a significant problem in its most recent data assessing fatal car crashes in 2010. It is significant enough that the agency has introduced a new measure to more carefully study the role of distraction in car crashes.

Despite the concerns that distracted driving can result in a car crash, the percentage of drivers in its most recent study who were text-messaging or visibly manipulating handheld devices while driving is on the rise, according to NHTSA research. Drivers using a hand-held cellphone remained constant at 5 percent from 2009 to 2010.

While the use of a cellphone or other handheld device tends to be of the largest concern for car crashes among researchers, there are actually a wide range of activities that can cause driver distraction that can result in a car crash, ranging from adjusting the car radio or a portable music device to eating or drinking to interacting with others in the car, including children the back seat. So what's the best approach to help avoid a car crash and make sure your car insurance rates stay low? Pay attention to driving first, and make everything else a distant second.

Tara Baukus Mello writes the cars blog as well as the weekly Driving for Dollars column, providing both practical financial advice for consumers as well as insight into the latest developments in the automotive world. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.

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