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North Carolina driver may have been distracted in fatal crash

The North Carolina Highway Patrol reported that distracted driving may have been a factor in a recent car accident that left one dead on Dec. 29. Although the investigation has been closed since the driver who caused the crash accounted for the only fatality, troopers are warning all motorists that distracted driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving.

The fatal accident occurred last month in Hubert. North Carolina troopers reported that a 2005 Nissan Sentra had crashed into a Department of Transportation vehicle that had been parked on the shoulder of N.C. 24. The driver of the Nissan later died from her injuries at a local hospital.

According to reports, it is estimated that the driver of the Sentra had been traveling at about 60 mph before she saw the parked truck. However, she did not apply her brakes in time and crashed into the truck at about 45 mph. The woman's car was crumpled and rescue crews had to extricate the driver from her car.

Although troopers will not know the exact cause of the crash, they did check the woman's cell phone records and said that there were a couple of calls on her records that occurred around the time of the accident. Troopers speculate that the woman may have been distracted by her cell phone prior to the crash because the roads were dry at the time of the accident and visibility was good.

According to a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Utah, using a hands-free or handheld device while driving can delay a driver's reaction just as much as a driver's reactions are delayed when one's blood alcohol content is 0.08 (the legal limit in North Carolina).

On average, drivers who take their eyes off of the road to text or make a phone call are distracted looking at their devices for about five seconds before looking at the road again. If a driver is traveling at 60 mph on the highway, they could travel as far as 440 feet during those five seconds of distraction, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates. Traveling that far without watching the road is certainly dangerous, and statistics can prove it. The NHTSA reported that in 2009, more than 5,400 people died in the U.S. in accidents that involved a driver who was distracted.

Source: The Daily News, "Distracted driving: a serious problem with a simple solution," Mike McHugh, Jan. 8, 2012

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