Many motorists living in New York and elsewhere believe that hands-free systems, which enable people to text and use their cell phones without looking at these devices, make them safer drivers. However, a recent study sponsored by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety showed that even if people’s eyes are on the road, they may still not be paying enough attention to avoid car accidents. Using hands-free devices may lead to cognitive distraction that can cause individuals to be looking at something but still not notice it because their brain is focused on something else, a phenomenon also known as “inattention blindness.”
An example of cognitive distraction is when someone who has caused an accident says that they did not “see” a stop sign or a red light. The two-year study, performed by researches at the University of Utah, demonstrated that due to cognitive distraction, people using voice commands and hands free-mode on cell phones may still not be totally aware of what is going on when they are driving even if they are looking at the road. Additionally, the study showed the longer a task took, the more distracting it was.
When drivers are distracted, it may take them a while to register and react to what they are seeing. This can slow down someone’s response times for braking or swerving to avoid an accident.
Distracted driving is the cause of 10 percent of traffic fatalities each year, according to federal data, and even if someone is not killed, ho or she may suffer severe injuries that can lead to long-term medical expenses and lost wages. A personal injury lawyer may be able to help someone who has been in a collision pursue compensation for medical bills and other costs related to an accident by demonstrating that the liable party was distracted at the time of the collision.
Source: The Washington Post, “Drivers still distracted, despite tech advances keeping their eyes on the road,” Ashley Halsey III, June 12, 2013