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Video footage of distracted driving crashes is revealing

We speak often in this blog about distracted driving, and for good reason. Distracted driving is one of the most dangerous threats to public safety in the Pittsburgh area. Nationwide, thousands are injured and killed each year by drivers who choose not to focus on operating their powerful motor vehicle safely.

When we talk about distracted driving, we usually mean driving while also performing another task, especially using a cellphone. But a new study suggests we can be distracted by our emotions too.

The study, which comes from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, is uniquely large-scale for an investigation into distracted driving. It is based on video footage shot of more than 3,500 volunteers as they drove over a three-year period.

In that time, the volunteers got into 905 crashes that resulted in personal injury, property damage or both. Researchers found that distracted driving was involved in 68 percent of the collisions.

Not surprisingly, the most dangerous type of distractions researchers observed in the footage was cellphone use, using a dashboard touchscreen, reaching for something and reading or writing while driving. All of these things require taking your eyes off the road at least briefly.

A CBS News article about the study also mentions an interesting finding: that a motorist experiencing strong emotions like anger, despondency or agitation could also be considered a distracted driver. The article does not go into any further detail about this, but it stands to reason that the midst of an emotional crisis may not be the safest time to be driving.

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