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Study: Distraction Not Limited To Hand-Held Devices

Study: Distraction Not Limited To Hand-Held Devices

Over the last several years, people in Norfolk County have become extremely attached to their technological devices and this has led to problems when it comes to driving. While the state has made efforts to lower distraction for drivers by banning texting while driving, drivers can still use their hand-held cell phones.

Distraction a growing problem

For the year 2008, the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security for Massachusetts reported that there were over 136,000 traffic accidents that occurred. Out of that number, 363 people died and more than 3,700 suffered serious injuries. It is unknown how many of those collisions were due to driver distraction but it is likely quite a few.

According to nhtsa.gov, 10 percent of all car accidents were attributed to distracted drivers, resulting in the deaths of 3,331 people and injuries for 387,000 others. There are three forms of distraction: visual, manual, and cognitive. While many studies have shown the risks associated with visual or manual distraction, there has been little information about cognitive until now.

The study focuses on cognitive distraction

A new study has been released by the American Automobile Association’s Foundation for Traffic Safety that measures cognitive distraction. It is deemed the “most comprehensive study of its kind” by USA Today and was an expanded study of one performed in Texas. In this new study, researchers at the University of Utah used 150 participants to determine the effects that different distractions have on the brain.

In order to measure cognitive distraction, the researchers first had to create a scale with a base to start with. They achieved this by first measuring the brain waves of participants who were completely focused on the task of driving. Then the participants were asked to engage in a singular additional task. These tasks were:

  • Talking with a passenger.
  • Using a hand-held cell phone.
  • Listening to an audiobook.
  • Listening to the radio.
  • Using text-to-message technology.
  • Talking with a hands-free phone.

Participants were outfitted with sensors, cameras, and other recording devices that captured not only their brain waves but their physical actions. The tests were performed in three environments: a lab, a driving simulator, and an instrumented vehicle. The drivers were given time to adjust to the environments to make sure that they were not distracted by the environments themselves.

Results of the study

The results of the study revealed that the more complicated the task was, the higher the level of cognitive distraction. This was especially true for the voice-to-text technology, showing that hands-free devices were just as distracting to drivers as hand-held cell phones. The data showed that drivers were slower to react to potential situations, missed important cues, and visually scanned their driving environment less frequently.

It is estimated that infotainment systems, like voice-to-text technology, will greatly increase over the next several years. The technology and auto manufacturing industries claim, however, that the study was flawed in its methods and that hands-free technology is safer.

When someone is injured in a car accident because of a distracted driver, they could suffer serious injury and in some cases, permanent disability. Speaking with an experienced personal injury lawyer can help them get the financial help that they need.