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It's April showers and distracted driving awareness time

April showers bring May flowers the saying goes. That may vary depending on the part of the country a person lives in. Here in Georgia, the window of opportunity is bound to be a little bit broader than in locales further north. Another feature of April is that it has come to be identified as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

We are contributing to this effort in our own small way. Earlier this month, we posted an item about the fact that the distractions that can hinder motoring safety come in many different forms. Texting and talking on cellphones are big ones, but so is personal grooming while behind the wheel.

Today we report on some research that attempted to gauge the role of age and experience of drivers might play in distracted driving. The findings, which researchers admit surprised them, suggest that texting and driving may be a greater problem for drivers middle-aged and older than it is for younger drivers.

Scientists from Wayne State University in Detroit road-tested drivers, segmenting them into age groups: 18 to 24; 25 to 34; 35 to 44; and 45 to 59. All the drivers were put through a simulation of driving down a two-lane country road at between 50 and 60 mph. Then they were asked to engage in a brief text conversation using just one hand.

What they found was that about a quarter of the youngest drivers strayed into the oncoming lane or onto the shoulder. But virtually all the drivers in the oldest age bracket took such lane excursions. Gender didn't make a difference. The speculation is that if the tests had been live conditions many could have ended up injured in a vehicle accident.

Officials acknowledge that young people tend to be the target audience for warnings against texting and driving. But they say this study suggests distraction knows no age and that everyone should put phones away so they can focus on the road.

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