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Avoiding cognitive distractions while driving

The number of people using cell phones in Delaware has increased over the past decade. This has prompted many states to enact laws prohibiting their usage while operating a car. For example, in Delaware, it has been illegal to use a hand-held cell phone while driving since 2011. Though taking the cell phone out of the hands of drivers decreases both visual and manual distractions, it may not stop cognitive distractions from occurring.

What are cognitive distractions?

Cognitive distraction is when a person’s brain is mentally distracted from the task they are doing. Cognitive distractions have been a problem long-before cell phones were in use. Listening to your child fight in the backseat, singing along to the radio or thinking about a problem that you dealt with at work can all distract you from what is happening on the road.

The dangers of cognitive distractions while driving

Many people assume that activities in the car that are hands-free are the same as risk-free; this is far from the truth. Researchers at the University of Utah and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety looked into cognitive distractions by performing a study on drivers doing various tasks while driving. The drivers were given six different tasks to complete while reaction times and brainwave measurements were looked at. The study found that in-vehicle speech-to-text technology was the most distracting. This could mean that driving with a hands-free cell phone could cause accidents.

Staying safe while on the road

Drivers have an obligation to pay attention to the road and force themselves to stay focused while driving. Those who become distracted visually, manually or cognitively may cause a motor vehicle accident to occur. Taking steps to limit distractions, such as adjusting music before driving or putting a cell phone on airplane mode, can help save lives.