Distracted driving is about more than just cellphones

Distracted driving has reached epidemic levels. As the Chicago Tribune points out, the union of cellphones and drivers has created a public safety threat comparable to drunk driving. Accidents caused by distracted driving lead to thousands of deaths and many more injuries every year across the United States. While the debate around distracted driving often focuses on texting and driving, it is important to remember that distractions are not limited to cellphones alone. In fact, a recent study is showing how the very hands-free devices that are often seen as being a safer alternative to cellphones could themselves be distracting drivers.

Knowledge versus action

One of the reasons distracted driving has become so widespread is that many drivers fail to heed their own advice on the issue. While most people say that distracted driving is their greatest safety worry when on the road, most of those same people nonetheless admit that they engage in distracted driving behavior, such as texting and driving, themselves.

Drivers know texting and driving is wrong and that it kills thousands each year, yet they think that they will somehow be the exception to these statistics. Many drivers justify texting and driving by telling themselves that the chances of a crash happening in the few seconds it takes them to read a text message are slim. However, the average time it takes to read a text message while on the highway is the equivalent to driving the length of a football field without looking at the road.

Voice-activation systems

Many drivers who are aware of the dangers of texting and driving instead use voice-activated infotainment systems that are built into their cars or similar hands-free systems on their smartphones. Because these systems allow drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road, motorists understandably assume that they are a safe alternative to using a cellphone or fiddling with radio dials. As CBS Chicago reports, however, a recent AAA study is questioning many of those assumptions.

The study found that hands-free devices can distract drivers for up to 27 seconds. Although drivers may be looking at the road, their mind is often engaged with the hands-free device. There are various reasons why hands-free systems are so distracting. One is that many of these systems can be frustrating to use when the system fails to understand a voice command. In other cases, such as by sending a text message via a voice command, drivers can remain more focused on that text message even after it has been sent rather than on their driving.

Personal injury

Of course, there are also plenty of other distractions that can lead to a crash, including talking to passengers, eating, personal grooming, and listening to music, all of which take drivers' attention away from the road.

Anybody who has been hurt in an accident that may have been the result of a distracted driver needs to contact a personal injury attorney immediately. An attorney can help fight on the side of accident victims and may be able to assist them in recovering financial compensation.