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Billings teens learn about dangers of texting and driving


Texting and driving can be deadly, and the toll is rising: according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of fatal accidents nationwide in which the driver was distracted by a cell phone increased from 406 to 476 annually between 2014 and 2015. Many experts believe accidents caused by cell phone use are underreported, because drivers don't always admit to police that they were on the phone when the crash occurred.

In an effort to combat the problem, AT&T Wireless recently brought its distracted driving safety campaign, "It Can Wait," to West High School in Billings. One of the activities students engaged in was a virtual reality driving simulation. Students who tried to text while driving learned firsthand how easy it is to get in a wreck. Others only narrowly avoided an accident.

Although Montana does not have a statewide ban, texting and driving is prohibited by ordinance in Billings and most other cities in Montana. Yet people continue to do it, and it's not just teenagers. A spokesman for the AT&T campaign said that when he asks high school students if they have witnessed their parents texting and driving, most of them say they have.

When a driver injures someone by texting behind the wheel, the victim has the right to bring a personal injury lawsuit against the distracted driver. The injured party can seek damages for pain and suffering, medical expenses and lost income. A civil lawsuit is one way to send distracted drivers the message that texting and driving is unacceptable.

Source: Billings Gazette, "West High students see dangers of texting and driving in virtual reality," Matt Hoffman, Sept. 6, 2016

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