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Police: Cellphones may have caused huge spike in rollovers

Investigators use several ways to gauge whether a traffic crash was caused by distracted driving. Kansas police may confiscate a cellphone or other electronic device following an auto accident and examine its contents and time stamps. Sometimes officials cannot connect a distraction with a collision unless one of the victims or vehicle occupants admits to it.

A lieutenant with the Wichita Police Department is convinced that the tremendous increase in Kansas rollover accidents has everything to do with cellphones. Statistics appear to back the opinion.

Rollover crashes more than doubled between 1998 and 2008, with the highest number of accidents during the decade in 2003. That was the year drivers regularly began to use cellphones and when 4,300 Kansas rollover crashes were reported. The number had dropped to 4,100 accidents by 2008, but the statistics were much higher than the 1,800 rollovers recorded in 1998.

Officials with the Kansas Highway Patrol are less certain than local police that rollovers and cellphones are directly connected. Unless the evidence is clear that cellphone conversations or texting are to blame for injuries or deaths, troopers rarely find the proof they need to link them.

New and young drivers have no idea what it's like to live in a world that does not include electronic communication devices. Kansas driving instructors are adapting to that realization. Cellphone and electronic device laws and driving etiquette are taught.

A Wichita instructor advises all novice drivers to pull to the side of the road or switch off electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle. The added distraction could cause an accident -- possibly a rollover crash -- that could needlessly injure or kill another driver, passenger or pedestrian.

Legal and financial consequences are other reason to stop multi-tasking while driving. Personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits have been won by plaintiffs who can prove a distracted driver was negligent during an auto accident.

Source:, "Rollover accidents on the rise, cell phones likely to blame," Susan Gager, Nov. 19, 2012

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