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August 18, 2015

Study Reveals New Driving Distraction

driving-distractionEveryone should know that texting, emailing, browsing the web, or even talking on a cell phone is a highly distracting and dangerous activity. Many people have good intentions on being safe and leave their cell phone in their purse or on the passenger seat and do not check the phone if a call, text, or email comes in. While this is much safer than looking at the phone, of course, new research indicates that having your phone on at all in the car can be distracting enough for a driver to make errors.

FSU distracted driving study

Researchers from the Florida State University (FSU) conducted a study[1] regarding the effects of hearing different types of cell phone notifications while behind the wheel of a motor vehicle and the results were surprising. Researchers divided unsuspecting people into three groups and gave each individual specific tasks to complete on a computer program. One group did not hear any sounds as they completed their tasks (the control group), one group heard notifications of an incoming text message, and the third group heard long-lasting ringtones signifying an incoming phone call.

The group that did not hear anything performed generally well on the tasks, however, the participants in the groups who heard the notifications made three times the mistakes than the control group. Though they did not look at their phones or answer a call, simply knowing that an unread text message or an unanswered call occurred was enough to cause significant distractions for participants. Though the group that heard the ringtones performed the worst, the study concluded that even hearing a single vibration can be enough to cause serious distraction. Researchers applied the results to driving and estimated that any driver that hears a cell phone notification can be dangerously distracted.

Cognitive distractions while driving

Most drivers associate distracted driving[2] with tasks that take their hands off of the wheel or their eyes off of the road. However, cognitive distractions can be just as risky as manual or visual distractions. A cognitive distraction is anything that takes your focus and concentration away from the task of driving the vehicle. In addition to hearing cell phone notifications, some examples of cognitive distractions include the following:

  • Having a hands-free conversation on a cell phone
  • Talking to a passenger
  • Listening to a podcast, radio show, or audiobook
  • Voice-controlling an in-car infotainment system

While minds can involuntarily wander and it is impossible to completely avoid all cognitive distractions, it is important for drivers to make a reasonable effort to avoid this type of distracted driving. One step is to put your cell phone on silent so that you do not even hear any notifications while you are behind the wheel.

Distracted driving can be negligent

Distracted driving caused by handheld mobile devices is an epidemic and the U.S. Federal government along with the World Health Organization[3] are actively and continually advocating for safe driving behaviors. Distracted driving can lead to serious accidents, including rear-end collisions, head-on collisions, and broadside collisions. If a distracted driver causes injury to anyone else, they may be deemed negligent and may be held liable for any losses suffered by victims. These losses may include:

  • Medical expenses for past and future treatment
  • Lost income and benefits and lost future earning capacity
  • Emotional distress caused from their injuries
  • Physical suffering and pain they experienced due to their injuries
  • Permanent disability or disfigurement
  • Loss of enjoyment of life

In order for an injured victim to recover, they must sufficiently prove that the other driver was actually negligent in causing the accident. This can be difficult in cases that involve cognitive distractions as you cannot get inside someone’s head and prove their distracted state of mind just prior to the accident. An experienced car accident attorney has many tools and resources that can help determine that an accident was caused by a driver who was distracted in some way. Seeking the assistance of an auto accident lawyer who understands distracted driving cases is imperative to prevailing in your case.

Drivers should always silence their phones and take every possible step to ensure they are driving in a safe manner. In the event that you are injured by another driver, you should always discuss what happened with a Philadelphia auto accident attorney who can determine whether you have a viable legal claim and can help you obtain the recovery you deserve for you losses.

References:

[1]https://www.fsu.edu/indexTOFStory.html?lead.distraction
[2]http://www.distraction.gov/stats-research-laws/facts-and-statistics.html
[3]http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/publications/road_traffic/distracted_driving_en.pdf

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