Study looks at cognitive distraction

A recent study takes a closer look at cognitive distraction for drivers and how different behaviors affect them.

The Illinois Department of Transportation reports that in 2013, 285,477 traffic accidents occurred. Out of that number, 991 people were killed and there were more than 85,000 injuries.

While the report does not indicate how many of these accidents were attributed to distracted driving, it is probable that there were quite a few. Distraction.gov states that each year since 2010, 660,000 drivers use some type of electronic device, including cellphones, while driving. Texting is considered to be the most dangerous form of distraction for drivers in Illinois since it requires them to take their hands off the wheel, their eyes off of the road and their mind off of driving.

Studying cognitive distraction

The American Automobile Association's Foundation for Traffic Safety recently decided to examine cognitive distraction in greater detail. Researchers conducted a series of experiments to create a measuring scale. To find a starting point, they first had participants just focus on driving. Cameras and sensors measured brain activity and captured the behaviors of drivers.

The experiments were conducted in an instrumented car, a driving simulator and a lab. Drivers were asked to engage in one behavior at a time and these behaviors included listening to the radio, talking to a passenger, using a handheld cellphone, engaging with a speech-to-text system and using a hands-free cellphone. To find the highest point of mental workload, drivers were asked to solve a set of complex mathematical problems.

Most distracting behaviors

Once the experiments were completed, the researchers compiled the data. They discovered that the most cognitively distracting behavior was the use of the voice-to-text system while the least cognitively distraction behavior was using the radio. Using a handheld cellphone came in as the second most distracting for drivers.

Researchers also noted the following with the most distracted behaviors:

  • Drivers were slower to hit the brakes
  • Drivers did not scan the road as frequently
  • Drivers experienced decreases of activity in the part of the brain used for driving

Furthermore, drivers missed cues that could alert them to a dangerous situation when they were focused on other things. Researchers used the data to show that these new voice activated systems and hands-free devices were not as safe as they are being marketed to be.

Seeking compensation

For people in Edwardsville, a sudden accident can leave them with several challenges. These challenges may include permanent disability, medical bills, loss of income, constant physical pain and mental anguish. The state of Illinois allows victims of negligent drivers to seek appropriate compensation for the damages they have suffered. Speaking with an experienced injury lawyer can help people understand what their rights under the law are.