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There's a new form of distracted driving -- and it's a shocker

If you know anyone under about age 25, you’ve probably noticed that they have a hard time putting down their smart phones. This may be responsible for the dramatic increase in distracted driving among young adults.

After all, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates distraction is responsible for around 12 percent of fatal accidents involving teen drivers, and kids don't seem to give up their cellphones when they turn 18. Moreover, the U.S. Department of Transportation says that more than 3,300 people of all ages are killed in car accidents caused by distracted drivers every year.

Most of the attention has been on texting while driving, and states around the nation have passed innumerable laws over the past few years trying to cut down on the problem. Here in Texas, all cell phone use, including texting while driving, is prohibited for novice drivers, bus drivers, and in school zones. Unfortunately, that may not be enough.

Recently, Toyota felt compelled to release a new ad in response to a new trend among young adults that could be even more dangerous than texting behind the wheel -- taking pictures, including self-portraits, while driving.

Toyota’s “Don't Shoot and Drive” ad was aimed at Instagram users, and CNN reporters recently went to the photo-sharing social media site to find out how common behind-the-wheel self-portraits, or “selfies,” actually are. A quick search of three hashtags -- #drivingselfie, #drivingselfies and #drivingtowork -- turned up more than 15,000 such images. A check of Twitter turned up more.

Not all of them were clearly shot by drivers while their vehicles were in motion -- but many were. Some mid-drive self-portraits included not only motorists but also motorcyclists, boaters and even airplane pilots.

Using a smart phone to take any kind of photo while driving requires at least one hand off the wheel and enough attention to pull up a photo app, frame the shot and push a button. Yet studies involving texting and driving have shown that even a few seconds’ inattention is enough to cause a serious or even fatal accident.

Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death among American teens and among the top 5 leading causes for all Americans. How can we convince young people that car accidents caused by distracted drivers are real, serious, often fatal and don’t always happen to “somebody else”?

Source: CNN, "Young drivers snapping 'selfies' at the wheel," Heather Kelly, Nov. 6, 2013

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