The state of New York no longer allows people to use their hand-held cellphones while driving. As a result, many drivers in New York have chosen to buy new vehicles that contain technology activated by voice, which is marketed as being safer and reducing distraction. However, a new study indicates that even using hands-free technology may put a driver at risk of being involved in a car accident.
In 2012, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles reported that there were over 294,000 auto accidents. Of those crashes, 169,206 people were injured and 1,163 people died. It is important to note that the agency lists driver inattention/distraction, outside car distraction, listening/using headphones, using other electronic device, eating or drinking, hand-held cellphone use, texting, using an on-board navigation device and hands-free cellphone use as separate factors. When added together, these forms of distraction caused 50,845 accidents. About half of those accidents resulted in injury and 156 were fatal.
Measuring cognitive distraction
While much attention has been given to distraction involving cellphones, it is important to note that there are other ways that drivers can lose their focus. According to distraction.gov, there are three forms of distraction and one of these is cognitive, which occurs when the mind is preoccupied with something else. Cognitive distraction has not been studied, as well as other forms of distraction, until now.
USA Today reports that a new study has been released by the American Automobile Association's Foundation for Traffic Safety. The study focused on measuring cognitive distraction and is considered the most comprehensive study conducted so far on the subject.
Researchers studied over 150 participants in three different settings as they performed the following tasks:
- Talking on a hand-held cellphone
- Using a hands-free cellphone
- Speaking with a passenger
- Listening to the radio
- Using a voice-to-text technology
- Listening to an audio book
Participants were studied as they engaged in these tasks while driving in a simulator, driving an instrumented vehicle and in a lab setting. The research team used sensors, video and other technology to capture data and even measured participants who were only driving to establish a beginning point for the scale.
The Risks Associated with Hands-Free Devices
The results of the study indicate that hands-free devices can create the same levels of cognitive distraction that hand-held devices do. Researchers discovered that the more complicated a task was, the higher the level of mental distraction. The study also showed that when people are mentally distracted, they fail to scan their driving environment as frequently, they are slower to hit their brakes and they miss visual cues that could alert them to a potential risk.
Such distraction could lead to injury and death for innocent victims. These victims and their families should talk to an attorney who can advise them in seeking appropriate compensation.