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Avoiding distractions while behind the wheel

Missouri motorists should be aware of the many distractions that can lead to traffic accidents. Most people already know about how distracting smartphones can be. Even safety features on Android devices and iPhones, such as apps that send automatic replies to incoming calls and texts, are voluntary; nothing prevents drivers from choosing to distract themselves.

A recent survey found that 52 percent of drivers with smartphones claimed to have used their devices behind the wheel to text, send emails, watch videos, play music or surf the internet. Drivers are encouraged to pair their phones with a Bluetooth device for hands-free communication. Even better, they could keep their phones out of sight so that they're not tempted. They must also follow state laws, many of which ban texting and driving.

Smartphones are not the only issue. Anything that takes a driver's eyes off the road, whether it's the AC or an infotainment system, will raise the risk for accidents. Some experts believe that distracted driving is what's to blame for the nationwide increase in traffic deaths.

Automakers are adding new technologies, such as lane departure and collision warning systems, to keep drivers safe. Another device, the automatic emergency braking system, will brake for the driver if he or she does not respond to a collision alert.

When distractions lead to a car accident, the victim could be eligible for compensation. He or she may want to speak with a lawyer, who can in turn hire investigators to find proof of the other driver's negligence. Legal counsel can then represent the victim at the negotiation stage. If the other driver's insurance company refuses to pay out, the victim can go to court. A successful car accident claim could reimburse the victim for vehicle damage, medical bills, lost wages and more.

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