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Drivers Distracted When Near Schools

Study suggests students should be wary when walking around parking lots, crossing streets

TUESDAY, Sept. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Here's some disturbing research to kick off the school year: A new study suggests that one in every six drivers near schools is distracted.

A whole variety of activities -- including chatting on cell phones, grooming, drinking, eating, smoking and even reading -- are keeping drivers from focusing around school zones, the Safe Kids USA organization reported.

Researchers also found that drivers who don't use seat belts are about one-third more likely to be distracted than those who are belted in, and afternoon drivers are 22 percent more likely to be distracted than morning drivers.

And if you think men are the most distracted, think again: females are 21 percent more likely to be distracted than males, the study authors noted.

The study results are based on more than 40,000 observations by researchers in 20 locations across the United States.

"The public expects drivers to be on their best behavior when they are near schools, however, the new study shows the opposite is true when it comes to distracted driving," Moira Donahue, director of the Walk This Way program, Safe Kids' pedestrian safety program, said in a news release. "With recent research demonstrating that the driving skills of a distracted driver are as bad as or worse than an intoxicated driver, the overall relevance of this study is clear. Almost one in six drivers in a school zone behaves like a drunk driver."

Cell phones were the leading distraction for drivers in this setting, accounting for 9.8 percent of the number of incidences, according to the news release.

"Multi-tasking while driving can have deadly consequences," said Donahue. "Drivers need to shut off their phones and pay attention to the road, especially in areas that are filled with children."

More information

For more on distracted driving, go to the National Safety Council.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: Safe Kids USA, news release, Aug. 31, 2009

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