With technological advances coming to the consumer marketplace seemingly daily, many individuals wonder why distracted driving accidents still occur. Drivers are constantly tempted with the possibility of multitasking while behind the wheel. From personal grooming to eating breakfast on the way to work, drivers feel the pull to be productive in what used to be considered “down time.” Unfortunately, these activities can lead to distractions and serious collisions.
Driving distractions generally fall into three categories – manual, cognitive, visual. Some activities, such as texting, cross those boundaries and can be distracting on numerous levels. Both technology companies and car manufacturers have worked to reduce or eliminate the types of distractions drivers might face while providing a level of comfort and ease of use. The most recent sweeping change has been the introduction and subsequent improvements of hands-free technology in the last decade.
But have these improvements helped?
New research suggests that while the distraction has been reduced, it has not been eliminated. The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute cautions drivers that while a handsfree communication device – either a phone adapter or the in-car technology – removes the manual component of the distraction, the conversation is still distracting on a cognitive level. Listening to what someone is saying and thinking of a response can pull a driver’s attention from the act of safe vehicle operation.
Distracted driving can lead to violent collisions resulting in serious injuries. Vehicle occupants can suffer brain trauma, spinal cord damage, paralysis and multiple fractures. Severe collisions can lead to fatality. Distracted drivers can fail to recognize stopped traffic or fail to follow safety or warning signals meant to protect drivers from hazards.