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Research Shows Distractions Have a Lasting Impact on Ability of Drivers to Focus

Guy distracted while driving

We’ve long known that text messages and phone calls can serve as a dangerous distraction for drivers. However, new research shows that those distractions make us bad drivers for even longer than we’d previously realized, and that even hands-free devices and in-vehicle systems which allow drivers to access features and media on phones with voice commands can keep us from dedicating enough attention to the road to remain safe.

In-vehicle systems come pre-installed on many late-model cars and have been advertised as a way for drivers to keep from looking down at a small phone screen while still remaining connected to their phones. One team composed of researchers from the University of Utah and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety decided to take a look at how successfully these in-vehicle systems were at helping drivers avoid distractions and remain focused on the road. The team selected ten of the most recent in-vehicle systems, examining the extent to which drivers were distracted using each system, and also looked at the distraction quotient of three voice recognition systems in popular smartphones. The study found the most distracting system to be that installed in the 2015 Mazda 6, which warranted a score of 4.6 out of 5. Note that a score of 5 was a distraction equivalent to attempting to solve math problems and memorize a list of words while driving, and a 1.2 was equivalent to listening to the radio. As for phone-based voice recognition systems, the Microsoft Cortana was the worst offender, earning a distraction score of 3.8, while the Google Now system was the least distracting at 3.0. Apple’s Siri earned a 3.4.

Possibly more alarming is that, even when drivers had finished engaging with the voice activated technology, they remained mentally distracted for another 27 seconds, leaving them susceptible to missing important events on the road in front of them for a length of time that would allow them to traverse the length of three football fields if traveling at a mere 25 mph. Peter Kissinger, the president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, noted, “The results indicate that motorists could miss stop signs, pedestrians, and other vehicles while the mind is readjusting to the task of driving.” The only way to truly focus on the road is to not engage with these systems while driving, as hard as it may be.

If you have been injured by a distracted or otherwise negligent driver while on the road in New Jersey, contact personal injury and car accident attorney Andrew Jacobs for a consultation on your claims, at 973-532-9681.

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