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Distracted driving accidents are utterly preventable

Missouri law bans texting while driving -- but only for novice drivers (those under age 21). This relatively lax ban is put in perspective when we consider most of Missouri's neighboring states. Nebraska, Kansas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois and Iowa all ban texting while driving for all drivers, regardless of age.

While distracted driving can take many forms -- for example, eating, grooming, talking to passengers, changing CDs -- texting while behind the wheel is particularly alarming because it requires the driver's attention on multiple levels: manual, visual and cognitive. You need all of these faculties to operate a motor vehicle safely.

Moreover, according to a driver distraction study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, texting takes a driver's eyes off the road for an average of five seconds. In that amount of time, if travelling at 55 miles per hour, the texting driver would cover the distance of a football field virtually blindfolded.

Young people may be particularly prone to distracted driving. According to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 27 percent of distracted drivers involved in fatal accidents are in their 20s.

As has been the case with drunk driving, the key to reducing the number of distracted driving accidents is to educate Americans of all ages about the potentially devastating consequences of distracted driving. Studies have shown that texting drivers can even have slower reaction times than intoxicated drivers, and this reality should be on the mind of anyone who is tempted even for a moment to text while behind the wheel.

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