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Intexticated: Cell Phones Still Major Cause of Crashes in Springfield

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The number of traffic crashes in Springfield dropped from January through November last year, but deaths from those crashes were higher. And cell phone use while driving continues to be a major cause of wrecks.

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Call it "intexticated." That's the new word surfacing from the fact that so many people are texting while driving.

An increase in fatal crashes within Springfield appears to be the result of distracted driving.

Last year from January through November, there were 19 fatal crashes, killing 22 people. That compares to eight fatality crashes in the same time period in 2011.

"I think people over estimate their ability to use their devices while they're driving," says Drury Communications Professor Dr. Jonathan Groves.

Texting and driving is something we're seeing more and more often.

"A little bit of erratic driving," says Branson Resident Nathan Stover. "Almost like they've been drinking."

"I mean, I've had a few close calls myself with people texting at intersections," says Springfield Resident and Frequent Biker Chris Gerringer.

So why is it that we always feel the need to stay connected?

"This device has created an expectation of immediacy," says Dr. Groves. "That we've got to give an instantaneous response. I think there's a draw of 'I've got to be in touch with that person, I can't just leave it. I've got to get back to them.'"

Today we sat at the intersection of Chestnut Expressway and Glenstone for five minutes and counted the number of people texting or using their cell phones while driving on only one side. In that time frame, we found 15 people were driving while distracted by their cell phones.  That doesn't count what we couldn't see through tinted windows.

"When we are using technology all the time, we are awarded with those short little messages and tweets and status updates," says Dr. Groves. "And it feels good because we get that instantaneous response. People "like" our status updates on Facebook so we want to keep doing that and we want that positive feedback because it makes us feel good so it's positive reinforcement for us to continue those things we're doing."

So what's the solution if you're one of those people who can't put the cell phone down?

"Maybe you need to take a technology sabbatical once in a while," Dr. Groves says. "Where you're actually unplugging from technology for part of the day or a full day."

And the next time you're behind the wheel you may want to think twice before you drive distracted.

"Don't do it," Gerringer says. "There are people you can hurt and that's something I don't think anyone wants to have on their conscience."

Dr. Groves says those that text and drive are likely the same people who text in all facets of their lives whether they're in line at the grocery store or even out to dinner with friends and family.

List: Specific kinds of distractions contributing to local crashes

Quoting the city's latest crash report card, "In Springfield, information obtained from 199 crash reports reported within the most recent 12-month period available, indicates that of all crashes that are listed with specific types of inattention as a contributing circumstance, 33% are due to cell phone usage.

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, almost 80% of all crashes involve some kind of driver inattention within three seconds of the event.  Cell phone usage is listed as the primary distracting activity while driving.


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