New Study Includes Hands-Free Phone Use
We have long known that talking on a cell phone you are holding is dangerous when driving. Bluetooth and hands-free cell phone use solved the problem of inhibiting driving ability when talking on a cell phone. A new study from researchers at the University of Iowa now claims that all cell phone use is dangerous when driving. Phone conversations are distractions that negatively affect our ability to concentrate on the road and on our driving.
In 2015 (the latest official data available), 3,477 people died and 391,000 were injured in crashes caused by a driver having a cell phone conversation, texting, or subject to other distractions.
In this first study of “attentional disengagement” conducted analysis using computerized eye-tracking to examine the impact of talking on a cell phone while driving. Experiments compared the time required to redirect one’s attention when a new object was shown on a screen. The study compared the time required by people who were not having any conversation to those having a conversation with someone in the vehicle or talking on a cell phone.
The study revealed a difference in the time required to refocus of approximately 40 milliseconds (4 –hundredths) of a second. To most drivers, such an infinitesimal delay seems inconsequential. Shaun Vecera, professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Iowa and Benjamin Lester, authors of the study, recognize that the delay is very brief and often is not noticed.
Vecera points out, however, that each time the brain is distracted from the task of driving it takes successively longer for the brain to shift from one action to another. He refers to it as a “snowball effect.” He further points out that as this effect continues, drivers become oblivious to their surroundings. This effect makes the very brief delay sufficient, particularly when frequently repeated, to become a sufficient delay in reaction time to be dangerous.
Previous studies determined that (1) cell phone use limits a driver’s field of vision to an area much like a cone, an effect similar to tunnel vision; and (2) that cell phone use while driving puts an additional burden on the human brain often referred to as “cognitive load.”
In response to the suggestion that the brain can be “trained” to compensate for the distraction of talking on a cell phone. The authors of the study point out, however, that there is no evidence that this is possible.
Based on this study, it is important for all drivers to recognize that the distraction caused by engaging in a cell phone conversation while driving is sufficient to create a hazardous situation for drivers. Thus, when driving, we should disengage from our phones. It is highly likely that laws and restrictions will catch up with studies of this kind. Until laws and restrictions are enacted it is incumbent upon all drivers to put away the cell phone. The consequences are too important to ignore.
If you or a loved one has been injured due to a driver distracted by a cell phone conversation while driving, call Altizer Law, P.C. Our trusted attorneys will represent you in obtaining fair and full compensation for your hurts and harms.