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Polish couple fall off cliff and die while taking selfies

The view from the cliffs of Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point of continental Europe, north west of Lisbon, Portugal. (Associated Press/Armando Franca)

A Polish man and woman taking selfies at the cliffs of Cabo Da Roca in Portugal on Saturday fell to their deaths. According to investigators, the couple had been taking photos of themselves when they fell down a cliff and into the Atlantic Ocean, NBC reports. A rescue team recovered their bodies Sunday after having to suspend their search Saturday due to bad weather.

Falling off of a cliff while snapping a photo is an uncommonly tragic event, but there is a wider trend of being distracted by digital devices that has become the focus of several public safety campaigns from car companies and government agencies.

The Department of Transportation has been pushing its anti-texting-while-driving message, launching an initiative this year against distracted driving. Cited as part of the initiative are DOT estimates that distraction related crashes killed 3,328 people and injured 421,000 in 2012. A Virginia Tech Transportation Institute 2013 study found visual-manual tasks (like looking at and touching a phone) increase the chances you’ll get in a car crash by three times.

The auto industry is proactively spreading the message as well. Toyota launched a “Don’t Shoot and Drive” campaign last year, with numerous photos of a car crash displayed through Instagram filters. And a new Ford-commissioned study of young European drivers found one in three British drivers between 18 and 24 has taken a selfie while driving — an act that takes your eyes off the road for an average of 14 seconds.

Perusing Instagram for the hashtag #drivingselfie, you’ll come across loads of pictures. Though there are also some examples of the more responsible driver-selfie practice of having a passenger take the shot while the driver’s eyes stay on the road. For example:

That Ford-commissioned study also found that checking social media distracted young drivers by an average of 20 seconds — 4 seconds more than snapping a selfie. So really, anything that distracts you from something seemingly-mundane but potentially dangerous (like driving) can put you at risk. The key is to be aware of what actually distracts you. There is a time and a place for everything, selfies included.

Elahe Izadi is a general assignment national reporter for The Washington Post.



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