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Distractions may be to blame for rise in traffic deaths

Distracted driving, according to some experts, is behind the increase in traffic deaths that has been affecting Illinois and the rest of the U.S. Smartphone use is a major factor in distracted driving; a Consumer Reports survey of licensed drivers who own smartphones showed that 52 percent of them admitted to using their devices while behind the wheel. From texts and emails to music and internet, smartphones offer plenty to distract people.

Smartphone and tech companies have been incorporating safety features to keep people safe, though they are all entirely voluntary. For example, Apple's latest operating system comes with an optional mode blocking all incoming calls and texts, and Androids and iPhones can send automatic replies when users are busy.

Better yet, automakers are trying to get to the root of the problem by installing new safety technology that cautions drivers about impending collisions. Besides lane departure and collision warning systems, there are automatic emergency braking systems that stop vehicles if the drivers do not respond to an alert.

Consumer Reports encourages drivers to put their phones away or pair them with Bluetooth devices. People should also be vigilant about following state laws. For example, Illinois bans texting and driving. Lastly, drivers should keep their eyes on the road at all times. Besides smartphones, infotainment systems and temperature controls in vehicles are other potential sources of distraction.

Failing to keep one's eyes on the road is a form of negligence, and when this lead to a car accident, the driver will be responsible for any damages the other party sustains. Before filing an accident claim, a victim should consult with an attorney. That way, he or she can focus on recovering while the lawyer brings in investigators and other experts to strengthen the case. An attorney can then negotiate for a settlement or, as a last resort, represent his or her client in court.

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