April is Distracted Driving Awareness MonthPosted on 4/10/2012
In today's world, technology allows us to stay connected anywhere we go at any hour of the day. In the United States alone, there are more than 285.6 million wireless subscribers! Nothing comes without a price however, and one of the consequences of unlimited access is distraction. Distraction is especially consequential when driving. April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and the perfect time to set down the phone and refocus on driving.
Contrary to many of our beliefs, most human beings are not actually capable of truly multi-tasking. Try as we might, we cannot actually fully focus on two different tasks simultaneously. Instead, the brain switches back and forth between the primary and secondary task at hand. Therefore, in order for us to really focus on driving, we cannot be texting or chatting on our phones at the same time. Researchers have coined the term “inattention blindness” to describe the common effect of using our phones while driving. In this scenario, the brain loses the ability to process everything and only captures a portion of what the eye actually sees. Research has shown that when on their cell phones, drivers fail to see up to 50% of what is occurring around them. This puts them at an enormous risk for missing safety cues such as red lights, stop signs, and pedestrians.
While hands free devices do allow us to keep both hands on the wheel and remain looking forward, they do not eliminate the cognitive distraction associated with being on the phone. Therefore, we are still not seeing everything around us, and are still at risk for missing important safety signals.
If you are reading this and feeling guilty for talking on your phone in the car, you are certainly not alone. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that at any given moment, 11% of all drivers are using cell phones. Due to this distraction, the National Safety Council estimates that at least one in four motor vehicle accidents involved cell phone use at the time of the crash. In fact, distracted driving has now joined alcohol and speeding as leading factors in vehicle crashes.
Even though spring has sprung up around us, and the roads are clear of snow, do not put driving on the back burner this April. Focus on seeing everything happening around us, and save the phone conversations for when we are at home and can fully focus on our conversations.