Distracted drivers become a hazard on the road for not only their own safety, but the safety of drivers and pedestrians around them. It is difficult for some people to avoid distractions and the lure of multitasking while behind the wheel. Whether it is eating, personal grooming or having a conversation, any activity that pulls focus from the road can lead to catastrophic collisions.
Texting while driving is universally considered one of the most dangerous distractions. The activity can disrupt hands, eyes and cognition for extended periods of time. Many companies have developed technology that can either limit a cell phone’s use while driving or allow drivers to text by only using their voice. These “talk-to-text” or “hands-free” technological advances were largely seen as improvements to driver safety, but are they truly safer?
In a study by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, researchers looked at drivers in three categories:
- Driving while texting by hand
- Driving while texting by voice
- Driving without texting
All three groups operated on a closed course and were measured based on reaction times to various stimuli. The results were shocking.
Unfortunately, according to the study, “response times were significantly delayed no matter which texting method was used.” Part of the problem lies in the underestimated impact of a cognitive distraction. Generally, people equate this type of distraction to daydreaming, but any type of serious cognition – recounting a negative experience, playing a conversation back from memory, preoccupation with an upcoming event, etc. – can significantly slow the brain’s ability to process new information and decide upon the correct reaction.
Even with these technological advances, drivers are encouraged to avoid any level of distraction while behind the wheel. No matter your age or experience level, driving distractions – even those that are seemingly minor – can have disastrous effects leading to serious collisions and deadly consequences.