Courts & Crime

After crashing three cars, time to hang up and drive?

Like father, like daughter — only more so.

Tyler Strandberg of Rocky Mount, N.C., has a hard time getting her mind off her BlackBerry when she drives.

She has crashed three cars in the past three years.

Each time, she was distracted from her driving because she was typing text messages or talking on the phone.

"Sometimes I will zone out and forget I'm driving," said Tyler, 23. "If I'm on the phone talking about something that takes up all my focus, I'm looking straight ahead — but not even seeing what's there."

Her dad, Buckley Strandberg, worries that she will never curb her dangerous habit.

But Buckley, an insurance executive, confesses his own weakness for Blackberry and Bluetooth. He feels compelled to conduct business by phone and e-mail on long, lonely drives between his offices in Rocky Mount and Nags Head.

"That's more than two hours," said Buckley, 49. "I'm not just going to sit there in the car. I get a lot of work done on that straight, dead stretch of U.S. 64.

"And if I run off the road, there are rumble strips that divert me back onto the road. That has happened occasionally. They seem to work, those rumble strips."

In North Carolina, and many other states, it's illegal to use a phone to read or send e-mail or text messages while driving.

As many as 60 percent of drivers use their phones occasionally, researchers say, and 11 percent are on the phone at any one time. Cell phone use is a deadly distraction that causes as many as 28 percent of all traffic crashes, the National Safety Council says.


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