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Distracted Driving, Texting and Driving Vehicle Accidents

Over the years, we have been conditioned to believe that drunk driving is the worst thing anyone can do when operating a motor vehicle. Well, just as technology has overtaken most aspects of our modern life, its also beginning to overtake alcohol as a leading cause of auto accidents.

Deadly epidemic of distracted driving

The rising use of gadgets such as GPS systems, iPods and, most especially, cell phones, has given rise to what has been called a deadly epidemic of distracted driving, according to a recent article in The Christian Science Monitor. Studies all over the world show that almost all drivers are four times more likely to have an auto or motorcycle accident while distracted by gadgets. And for anyone texting while driving at 55 mph, its the equivalent of driving the distance of a football field with their eyes closed!

Distracted driving accidents occur when a driver’s attention is diverted from the task of driving, leading to unsafe and potentially dangerous situations. Distractions can take various forms, including using a mobile phone, eating, adjusting the radio, or engaging in conversations with passengers. Here are some common types of distracted driving accidents:

  1. Texting and Driving: One of the most dangerous forms of distraction is texting while driving. Reading or sending text messages diverts the driver’s eyes and attention away from the road.
  2. Talking on the Phone: Conversations on mobile phones, whether handheld or hands-free, can lead to cognitive distraction, impairing a driver’s ability to focus on the road.
  3. Eating and Drinking: Consuming food or beverages while driving can cause manual distraction as the driver takes their hands off the wheel. Additionally, it can lead to cognitive distraction as the driver’s attention is on the meal rather than the road.
  4. Adjusting Controls: Changing the radio station, adjusting the GPS, or manipulating other in-car controls can divert a driver’s attention and lead to accidents.
  5. Talking to Passengers: Engaging in conversations with passengers can be a source of distraction, especially if the discussions are emotionally charged or require significant attention.

Distracted driving accidents can result in serious injuries or fatalities, and they are largely preventable. Many jurisdictions have implemented laws and campaigns to discourage distracted driving and promote safer practices.

Reduce the risk of distracted driving accidents

To reduce the risk of distracted driving accidents, drivers should prioritize their attention on the road, avoid using mobile devices, and minimize other distractions while driving. Education, awareness campaigns, and legal consequences for distracted driving offenses are essential components in addressing this issue and promoting safer roads. There are always going to be distractions,” says David Teater, who serves as senior director of transportation strategic initiatives at the National Safety Council. “But the advent of mobile electronic communication devices has really changed the game we’ve been talking on the phone for 80 years. We’ve been driving 100 years. It’s only recently that we’ve tried to combine the two.” Teater has an unfortunate firsthand knowledge of the subject his 12 year-old son was killed in a wrongful death auto accident caused by a driver using a cell phone.

Real disruption, phone up to ear or no, occurs in the drivers head because its a cognitive process

And for those of you who believe using a hands-free headset instead of the actual cell phone is the answer, that is simply not the case. Scientists at the University of Utah’s Applied Cognition Laboratory, using a virtual driving simulator, have proven that headset users are at as much a risk of an auto accident as the cell phone user. The real disruption, phone up to ear or no, occurs in the drivers head because its a cognitive process that takes them out of their driving space and into a virtual one removed from the road. “We record brain activity,” says Professor David Strayer, “and we can show that it’s suppressed from the cell phone conversation.” And, of course, if a cell phone text or conversation causes a serious enough auto accident, that brain activity will be suppressed forever.

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