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All Press Releases for January 04, 2014 »
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New study measures cognitive distraction in drivers

According to, there are three types of distraction and these are visual, manual and cognitive.
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    January 04, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Over the last several years, state and federal groups have emphasized the dangers of distraction while driving. Campaigns have targeted the use of cell phones and federal agencies have encouraged states to pass laws against texting and using hand-held cell phones. While drivers in Louisville are unable to text while driving, it is not illegal for them to use a hand-held phone. However, when drivers are focused on something other than the road around them, they can cause a car accident.

Inattention and distraction

In the Kentucky State Police's 2012 collision facts report, inattention and distraction are listed as two separate factors contributing to car accidents. Inattention was cited as a factor in 49,507 crashes in the state, equaling 39.66 percent of all accidents. Distraction was cited in 6,281 collisions, equaling 5.03 percent of all accidents in the state. However, there is no definition given to indicate what separates inattention from distraction.

The definition for inattention, according to Merriam-Webster, is lack of attention - when someone isn't putting their full focus on something. Distraction is defined as something that interferes with one's concentration. Both factors listed in the report indicate that drivers were not paying attention to what they should have been focusing on - driving.

Cognitive distraction

According to, there are three types of distraction and these are visual, manual and cognitive. When drivers take their hand off of the wheel to send a text message on their cell phone or visually fixate on something other than the traffic and the road, these behaviors are known as distraction. If drivers are thinking about something other than driving, this distraction is known as cognitive.

While visual and manual distraction is often discussed, cognitive distraction has stayed in the background. Yet, just about every driver has had that moment when they were thinking about something and missed a turn or even ran through a red light.

Measuring cognitive distraction

Researchers with the American Automobile Association's Foundation for Traffic Safety recently conducted a study to examine cognitive distraction in drivers and the risks associated solely with this type of distraction. The study consisted of three different environments: lab, instrumented vehicle and driving simulator. Over 150 participants were asked to perform six different tasks while driving. These tasks were:
- Talking with the passenger.
- Using voice to text technology.
- Listening to an audio book.
- Talking on a hand-held cell phone.
- Listening to the radio.
- Using a hands-free cell phone.

In order to create a cognitive measuring scale, researchers first asked participants to focus only on the task of driving. They attached cameras, sensors and used other technology to record drivers' behavior and brain waves. The results of the study showed that drivers who were engaged in more complicated tasks such as voice to text technology and talking on hands-free cell phones experienced the same level of cognitive distraction as when they used a hand-held cell phone.

The study shows that distractions of any kind can pose risks to drivers and to others around them. When people are injured in car accidents caused by distracted drivers they should discuss their legal options with an experienced attorney.

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