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Distracted driving: Is there ever a good time to use your phone?

"where r u"

"almost there"

"ok c u soon"

Look familiar? Just a quick text, just a few characters and then hit send. A lot can happen in a split second, let alone the few seconds it takes to actually read and respond to a text.

More than two in five drivers admit they've read texts while driving, and one in three have responded to texts they've received. How much attention were those drivers paying to the road - or other vehicles - when they were texting?

The bottom line is that talking and texting on cell phones is against the law in West Virginia and many other states. Officers are citing distracted drivers more frequently, which can mean hundreds of dollars in fines and points on their licenses and a potential impact on auto insurance costs - and that's just the beginning.

The fatal consequences of distracted driving

What happens if a distracted driver causes an accident? How many people are badly injured, or worse, killed as a result?

According to 2013 research from the National Center for Statistics and Analysis, every day more than eight people are killed and more than 1,100 are injured by distracted drivers. Fortunately, these sobering statistics have motivated additional laws and funding to help address the problem. Police departments in West Virginia note a decrease in highway deaths since they've amped up funding and cited more distracted drivers.

Still, people are texting and talking without regard for the consequences. You can't control what other people do, but you can be prepared and pay attention to your own driving. Perhaps you can even prevent an accident by being aware of your surroundings and other drivers - who may be driving distracted. The next time you think about answering a text, real quick, think about what it might cost you in the long run and put it away, because it's just not worth it.

So when should you whip out your cellphone? After an accident, your cell can be your best ally. Get as much information as possible from the other driver(s), especially the insurance information, and any witnesses who may have stopped. Take pictures - your cell phone camera is good for more than selfies! - and document everything you remember including the street names and weather. Make sure you provide all of this information to your attorney.

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