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Letters to the Editor

Combat the risks of distracted driving

Distracted driving — that’s a teen issue, right? The Illinois Insurance Association wants you to rethink that assumption.

No matter your age, modern life offers a full menu of potential distractions every time you get behind the wheel. The one that succeeds in taking your eyes off the road might be a friend’s text, but it could just as easily be a talkative co-worker, an email from the boss, or the fast food in your lap.

April is Distracted Driving Month, and law enforcement, insurance companies and safety advocates have a clear message for Illinois’ drivers — just drive.

Cell phone use increases drivers’ risk of getting in an accident. That’s why states like Illinois banned texting while driving. But while drivers’ phone use has leveled off, traffic fatalities have increased since 2015.

Insurance companies don’t know all the reasons this is happening. We do know many crashes are avoidable and that you reduce your risk by deciding not to drive distracted.

We also know that distractions can impair a driver’s reaction time as much as having a blood alcohol content above the legal limit — and that conventional wisdom about which distractions are dangerous is not always accurate.

For example, a Texas A&M University study found that voice-to-text is not significantly safer than manual texting, and AAA’s Foundation for Traffic safety determined drivers using hands-free devices are no less distracted than those holding phones.

There’s only one foolproof way to combat the risks of distracted driving — just drive.

Elise Spriggs

Columbus, Ohio

Note to readers: Elise Spriggs is chairwoman of the Illinois Insurance Association and regional vice president of State Auto Insurance Companies.

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