Norelle Done | HealthGreatness
In 2012, 3,328 people were killed in accidents that were caused or affected by distracted driving. Thousands more were injured that year – an estimated 421,000 – in accidents involving a driver that was distracted.
Distracted driving isn’t always caused by texting, eating, or putting on makeup – although here are some ways to avoid those distractions. As we wrap up National Safety Month (June) with a week focused on ending distracted driving, there’s another possible cause for distracted driving… your car.
According to the BBC.com, scientists have learned that the new advances in high-tech features for cars are helping drivers, but they are also causing distracted driving.
Touchscreen DVD players and radios, parking assistance, voice-activated Bluetooth features… the amount of gadgets and gizmos in your car just increases every year. While the systems do work to help drivers (particularly in hands-free technology), they can require additional cognitive function. What this means for drivers is that you are often looking at the road instead of your phone or radio console, but you aren’t actually seeing things happening on the road. This is because your brain is focused on responding correctly to your voice-activated system.
It is not just brain function that is taxed with these gadgets, either. An MIT study found that there is “a high level of visual demand/engagement during selected tasks, such as the use of the voice-command interface for entering addresses into the navigation system … [And] implementations of voice interfaces can be highly multi-modal and are not necessarily free of visual-manual demands on attentional resources.”
That study found that many drivers who use voice command systems actually spend more time with their eyes off the road than drivers using manual systems. So even though the voice-controlled systems are supposed to be reducing the amount of time you spend looking at the devices, they are actually requiring more visual attention.
The key for preventing distracted driving is not to make these systems inaccessible when the car is in motion, because then we’d be back to where we started. However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has already released voluntary guidelines for car manufacturers, to attempt to reduce the amount of time drivers have their eyes off the road.
Stopping distracted driving begins and ends with the driver. Recognize your personal causes for distraction while driving, and take steps to minimize or eliminate them.