As part of a campaign to educate teenagers about the dangers of distracted driving, the U.S. Department of Transportation launched a new website this fall with a driving simulator that demonstrates the dangers of distracted driving.The website simulator puts the user in a driving environment complete with a loud radio, chatty passengers and a ringing phone. If the website's user clicks on any of the distractions, the simulator will wreck the car into another vehicle. If the user keeps his or her eyes on the road, then the simulator congratulates the person. Crash statistics greet the user after each wreck, such as 5,474 people were killed in automobile crashes that involved distracted drivers in 2009. Another 448,000 were injured.The DOT's distracted driving challenge page is loaded with statistics and alarming information. For instance, traffic crashes are the leading cause of death among American teenagers. If you are texting while driving, then you have the same reaction time as someone who is legally drunk.The site's target audience is teenagers. More than 15 percent of the accidents caused by distracted driving involve drivers under 20. The site allows teenagers to make a pledge to avoid distracted driving that will be posted to their Facebook page and broadcast to their Twitter followers. It also encourages teens to call out their friends and classmates when they see distracted drivers.The DOT also has two new television commercials aimed at teen awareness of distracted driving. In each of the commercials, carloads of young people being driven by a teenager who is either texting or talking on a mobile phone slam into stationary objects. The end of the commercials reveals the things they ran into were large stone text abbreviations like OMG, L8R and LOL.The distraction.gov website was redesigned as part of the campaign to discourage distracted driving. The new site is complete with testimonials like Liz Catherman of Idaho, whose daughter Kassy Kerfoot died at 18 when she lost control of her car while texting during rush hour. The site also contains a report of a pilot program called "Phone in one hand, ticket in the other," which was modeled after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's successful "Click it or ticket" campaign. In the two pilot cities of Hartford, Conn., and Syracuse, N.Y., use of handheld devices dropped significantly during the advertised enforcement waves.Distracted driving can cause serious accidents and wrongful deaths. Individuals and their families need to get expert legal advice to overcome the challenges after an accident like this occurs.
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