Distracted Driving Series: Part Two

Anything that diverts a driver’s attention from driving can result in distracted driving. This includes eating, talking to passengers, grooming, and talking or texting on cell phones. In 2012, 3,328 people were killed in car crashes attributed to distracted driving. Another 421,000 people were injured in wrecks involving a distracted driver. Those who engage in tasks requiring visual and manual attention (like dialing or texting on a cell phone) are three times more likely to be involved in a wreck. [1] Because of the dangers inherent in distracted driving, this multi-part series will discuss how distracted driving affects different types of drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.

Distracted Driving & Automobiles

shutterstock_201291197Driving requires use of a person’s visual, manual, and cognitive faculties. Accordingly, results can be disastrous when anything takes a driver’s eyes, hands, or mind away from the primary task of driving. A driver’s diverted attention can result in slower reaction time, failure to identify hazards and objects in the roadway, and failure to stop at intersections, all of which contribute to a higher risk of crashes. [2]

Although the distracted driving conversation frequently focuses on cell phone use, any task can cause distracted driving. Even listening to the radio or talking to a friend in the car can result in modest levels of distraction. However, cell phones are uniquely distracting because they require a driver to simultaneously devote visual, manual, and cognitive attention to the phone while driving. Texting is especially dangerous because texting drivers divert their attention from the road more frequently and for longer periods of time than they might devote to other tasks. Studies have shown that those who text while driving look away from the road for an average of five seconds at a time. That’s long enough for a car driving 55 miles per hour to travel the length of a football field with an inattentive driver. [3] As a result, Georgia law makes it illegal to text and drive, and bans all cell phone use for bus drivers and drivers under the age of 18. [4]

Many drivers now use speech-to-text systems provided on their phones or built into their cars to place calls and send text messages. But a recent study found that even using a speech-to-text system can cause significant cognitive distraction, resulting in unsafe driving. [2] Drivers become especially distracted when attempting to correct errors made in speech-to-text messages, but even perfect systems can result in distracted driving. [2] This is a concerning finding, since there is a trend among automobile manufacturers to include speech-to-text systems in new vehicles to allow drivers to dictate e-mails and text messages, use the internet, and operate navigation systems while driving. These systems still present very real risks. A safe driver must keep their eyes, hands, and mind on the wheel.

[1] http://www.distraction.gov/get-the-facts/facts-and-statistics.html

[2] https://www.aaafoundation.org/sites/default/files/MeasuringCognitiveDistractions.pdf

[3] http://www.distraction.gov/stats-research-laws/facts-and-statistics.html

[4] http://ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/bystate/ga.html