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Cognitive distraction measured in new study

The American Automobile Association's Foundation for Traffic Safety has released the results of a new study that measured cognitive distraction.
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    December 06, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Cognitive distraction measured in new study

With the increasing use of cell phones and other devices, it is no wonder that distraction has become a growing problem with drivers. When people concentrate on other things than driving, their risk of getting into a car accident is greater and this exposes innocent people to injury or worse.

In 2008, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security reported that there were over 136,000 collisions in the state. According to 387,000 people suffered injuries in car accidents, involving distracted drivers, nationwide in 2011 and over 3,300 people died.

Cognitive distraction measured

The American Automobile Association's Foundation for Traffic Safety has released the results of a new study that measured cognitive distraction. According to USA Today, the new study is considered the most thorough examination ever done on cognitive, or mental, distraction. The purpose of the study was to look at how tasks distract a driver's brain, taking their attention off of the road around them.

Over 150 participants were asked to perform six different tasks which included talking on a hand-held cell phone, listening to an audio book, using a voice-to-text technology, talking to a passenger and using a hands-free phone. In order to create a rating scale, the researchers first tested participants with only the task of driving. The tests were performed using a driving simulator, a lab and an instrumented vehicle. Data was gathered through the use of cameras, sensors and other detection equipment.

Hands-free no safer than hand-held technology

According to the study, many people believe that hands-free technology is safer than technology that is not hands-free but the results of the experiments indicate that this is a myth. The study revealed that the more complicated a task was, the higher the rating of cognitive distraction and therefore, the higher the risk of getting into a car accident for the participant.

Researchers observed the following with complicated tasks:
-Slower braking time.
-Reduced visual scanning of the driving environment.
-Missed visual cues that would alert a driver to a potential danger.
-Brain activity decreased in sections used for driving.
-Lower accuracy in peripheral detection test.

The assumption is that drivers are most at risk when they take their eyes off of the road or their hands off of the wheel but the new study shows that even becoming mentally focused on something else can be unsafe to drivers and to others around them. This is not surprising, given the fact that people can find themselves on the wrong road or may miss an exit because they were mentally distracted.

When people get behind the wheel of their car, they should try to eliminate as many sources of distraction as possible. For people who are injured in a car accident caused by a distracted driver, they should talk to an experienced attorney about seeking compensation.

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