It comes as no surprise that distracted driving car accidents injure and kill a considerable number of people in Pennsylvania and throughout the United States. In fact, motor vehicle accidents caused by distracted drivers killed more than 3,100 in one year alone, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. Within a five-year period, driver distraction was responsible for the deaths of nearly 20,000 people.
While it is not illegal for drivers in Pennsylvania to use hand-held cellphones, many other states prohibit this act. Companies urge motorists to use hands-free cellphones as a safe alternative to hand-held devices. Yet, studies show that even hands-free cellphones can create significant driver distraction.
A study published by AAA set out to measure the amount of cognitive distraction caused by engaging in several different tasks while driving. These included the following:
- Listening to the radio
- Listening to a book-on-tape
- Talking to another passenger in the car
- Composing an email using voice-activated technology
- Using a hands-free cellphone
- Using a hand-held cellular device
As participants engaged in these activities, researchers measured their heart rate, eye movement, brain activity and response time. The results showed that using a hands-free cellphone was slightly less distracting than using a hand-held device.
Cognitive distraction occurs when motorists focus on a task other than driving. Rather than focusing on one complex task, the brain switches back and forth between two complex tasks. This leaves brief moments when the brain is not focused on driving at all. Drivers put themselves at a greater risk of becoming involved in a deadly car accident under these dangerous circumstances.