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New study shows risks associated with cognitive distraction

Arizona has no current legislation prohibiting the use of cellphones and texting but the lack of a law isn't stopping the DOPS from addressing the problem.
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    January 29, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- New study shows risks associated with cognitive distraction

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There are many risks that drivers in Maricopa County face when they get into their vehicles. One of these is encountering other drivers who are not paying attention to what they are doing. Instead, these drivers can be seen sending text messages, putting on make-up and even talking on their phones. When drivers engage in such behaviors they increase their risk of getting into a car accident.

Arizona and distraction

According to AZ Family, Arizona has no current legislation prohibiting the use of cell phones and texting but the lack of a law isn't stopping the Department of Public Safety from addressing the problem. The DPS will be stopping drivers who are texting or using their cell phones and cite them for "speed not reasonable and prudent." A campaign, educating drivers on the dangers of distracted driving, will also be used.

In 2012, the Arizona Department of Transportation reported that over 11,000 car accidents were attributed to inattention or distraction in the state, 3,133 of these resulted in injury. An electronic communication device was cited in 197 crashes but it is unclear whether this includes using a cell phone.

Cognitive distraction

A report was released in June last year, based on the results of a study conducted on cognitive distraction. USA Today says it is "the most comprehensive study of its kind to look at drivers' mental distraction." The goal of the study was to measure the amount of cognitive distraction associated with tasks. Over 150 participants in the study were asked to do the following in addition to focusing on driving:
-Use a speech-to-text email system.
-Talk to a passenger.
-Listen to an audio book.
-Talk on a hand-held cell phone.
-Have a conversation with someone on a hands-free phone.
-Listen to the radio.

In order to create a measuring scale, researchers first asked participants to concentrate solely on the task of driving. Cameras, sensors and other equipment were used to capture information relating to the drivers' brainwaves, behaviors and actions. Participants were tested in a lab, a driving simulator and in a real driving environment with an instrumented vehicle.

Sources of the greatest cognitive distraction

Once all of the data was collected, researchers then examined it. They found that using the voice-to-text technology created the highest levels of cognitive distraction, followed by hand-held cell phone use and talking to a passenger. When drivers engaged in these actions, they visually scanned their driving area less frequently, were slower to hit the brake and missed visual cues that could alert them to a potential danger.

The results relating to the hands-free technology concern researchers, since new vehicles are coming with such features. They believe that the technology and auto industries need to conduct further research before promoting such in-vehicle technology as safe. When a person is injured in a car accident caused by a distracted driver, the person should discuss their options with an experienced attorney.

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