Despite a decade of strict laws, rigorous enforcement and an onslaught of public safety campaigns, recent surveys have found that the majority of drivers throughout the U.S. and Pennsylvania continue to make the decision to drive distracted. A 2017 Consumers Report survey found that 41% of drivers used their hands to text while driving. Another 8% admitted to watching videos while behind the wheel. Additional findings back what advocates against distracted driving have been saying for years: Distracted driving is dangerous and possibly fatal.
In 2016, 37,461 individuals died in traffic accidents on U.S. roads. That is a 5.6% increase from 2015 and an 8.4% increase from 2014. The number of fatal distracted-driving related accidents involving cell phones rose by 2% between 2011 and 2015, from 12% to 14%. Distracted driving injury accidents involving smartphones also rose by 2% during the same period, from 6% to 8%.
The Washington Post explores why distracted driving accidents continue to occur despite advancements in safety-focused technology. The study concluded that technology meant to enhance the safety of text messaging while driving is not very effective. The Post blames a phenomenon called “cognitive distraction.”
Cognitive distraction occurs when a person’s eyes are focused on one activity, but his or her brain is focused on another. For instance, a driver may have his or her eyes on the road but run a red light and remain entirely unaware he or she did so. The reason? His or her focus was elsewhere.
What the study found was that, compared to other diversions, speech-to-text technology provided the most-significant cognitive impairment. The findings were the result of a two-year study involving simulators and on-road tests.
Findings from a AAA study seemed to coincide with other recent research. The study came to one simple conclusion: The more absorbing and complex a task, the greater the distraction it created. The longer a person takes to, say, complete a voice text message or input GPS coordinates, the more he or she is likely to cause an accident.
The AAA study also called attention to “inattention blindness,” which is a phenomenon similar to cognitive distraction. According to the foundation, the occurrence refers to the delayed comprehension of a visual. The slow processing time often results in a delayed appropriate reaction, such as swerving or braking.