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Distracted driving on the rise during holiday season

A survey from the app-based insurer Root Insurance shows that one-third of Americans who shop on mobile devices have done so while behind the wheel. Of those, 83 percent engaged in this dangerous activity during the holiday season. Residents of Georgia may not be surprised by this trend. Part of the reason for it is that many drivers have retailer apps that notify them about "lightning deals." The sense of urgency leads them to unsafe practices.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety states that about 2 percent of all drivers "manipulate" mobile devices when on the road. This includes calling, texting, shopping and changing the music. All such activities constitute a distraction, and they raise crash risks even more during the holidays because of the winter weather and the greater number of vehicles and pedestrians.

The Federal Highway Administration found that every year from 2007 to 2016, snow and sleet were responsible for an average of 18 percent of all weather-related crashes. An IIHS spokesman says that December is an especially bad month for collisions involving pedestrians.

In Georgia, as with other states, it's illegal to hold a phone while driving. Drivers are encouraged to put their smartphones on "Do Not Disturb" when in the car and to download an app for blocking notifications when the car is in motion.

A driver who causes a car accident because they were distracted may be held liable for the other party's injuries. The victim could file a claim against the negligent driver's auto insurance company and, if successful, be reimbursed for their medical bills, vehicle repair costs and other applicable losses. They are advised to hire a lawyer, however, because the insurance company will be aggressive in denying a claim. A lawyer could litigate as a last resort.

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