The latest phase of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s long running investigation of distracted driving and its causes highlights some potentially disturbing issues, according to a recent article published by MyCentralOregon.com. As the website notes, “the results raise new and unexpected concerns regarding the use of phones and vehicle information systems while driving.”
Specifically, the study challenges the common assumption that switching to hands-free devices solves most distracted driving problems. According to the website, the study concluded that “potentially unsafe mental distractions can persist after a driver dials, changes music or sends a text using voice commands on a voice-activated system.” Especially interesting is the focus on things we do not usually think of when we use the term “distracted driving,” such as using a car’s music or navigation systems.
More critical, however, is the discovery that distracted problems go far beyond cellphones, and cannot be solved simply by switching to headsets, in part because the distraction these devices create lingers even after one’s attention returns to driving.
“Researchers found that potentially unsafe levels of mental distraction can last for as long as 27 seconds after completing a distracting task, long enough for a driver to travel the length of nearly three football fields when moving at just 25 mph,” the site reports.
The website quotes the head of AAA referring to this as a “hidden and pervasive danger” in modern cars. It goes on to note that these lingering distractions are not confined to periods when cars are in motion. “When you’re using a voice-activated system when there’s a lull in traffic or you’re stopped at a red light, the mental distractions can persist and impact your ability to drive safely, even after the light turns green and you stop interacting with the system.”
As an Oregon and Washington distracted driving lawyer I’m glad to see attention being called to this self-evident, but often overlooked, truth: cellphones are not the only thing that can draw a driver’s focus away from the road, and even the most routine items, like a car’s radio or climate controls, can be almost as distracting as a phone call. It is important for all of us to be aware that distractions will always exist whenever we are behind the wheel, and to do everything we can to minimize them.
MyCentralOregon.com: Alarming new data from AAA distracted driving study