A recent study by AAA’s Foundation for Traffic and Safety sheds new light on the lasting effects of distracted driving that smartphone use has on drivers, even when they only use their phone while the car is stopped. While most people believe that it is safe to text, read email or talk on their phone while they are stopped at a red light, research demonstrates that even such limited cellphone use results in what researchers are calling a hangover effect.
Considering the increasing number of car accident related wrongful deaths, it is imperative that all motorists understand how dangerous any smartphone while behind the wheel is. The AAA’s study revealed that a driver’s mind remains distracted for nearly half a minute after simply sending a text while their vehicle is stopped. The driver’s mind remains focused on the message they just sent, rather than on driving their vehicle. The researchers refer to the post cellphone use as inattention blindness, and essentially blocks out other stimulus, such as other cars, traffic signs and even pedestrians.
This finding is concerning, particularly since car manufacturers and technology companies are rapidly making “advances” in allowing motorists to more readily remain on-line, such as with heads-up displays. While allowing motorists to see information on their windshield, rather than looking at the dashboard or phone, sounds safer, that motorist is equally as distracted. The AAA is actually recommending that all vehicles have technology which prohibits a driver from using smartphone technology with the car is moving. And, while voice activated technology may aide motorists, not all vehicles have seamless technology integrated into them, which may actually cause a well intending motorist to become more distracted.
While most states, including Florida, have laws which punish motorists who text while driving, too few have similar laws to prevent drivers from talking into a hand-held phone. As anyone driving along South Florida’s roadways, particularly I-95, the turnpike or I-595 knows, far too many drivers are driving with one hand on the wheel, while their other is holding a phone; often times, directly in front of them, using the speaker, and actually looking at the phone too.
Needless to say, we agree with the AAA, that Florida’s legislature needs to take more aggressive action to keep up with the pace of technology and keep those of us on the road safer.