Our firm vigorously represents clients injured by distracted drivers in Cleveland. In March of this year, the ban on texting in Ohio took effect and will hopefully go some way to reducing death by mobile electronic device. But what about distraction from devices that come with the car?

In June, the Automobile Association of America (AAA) released an in-depth study on cognitive distraction while driving. One purpose of the study was to test the common belief that hands-free devices are a safe option while driving. The study resoundingly found that driving hands free is not risk free.

Consider these points noted by the study:

  • By measuring physical factors including eye movement, brainwaves and other criteria, researchers developed a ranked list of common driver distractions including listening to the radio or an audiobook, conversing with a passenger or on a phone of some type, or interacting with a voice-to-text system in the car.
  • With varying degrees, and with hands on the wheel and eyes on the road, these distractions led to an increase in reaction times and missed cues, reduction of visual scanning and peripheral awareness, and decline in brain activity in areas associated with driving.
  • Conversing with any type of device increases risk your risk of accident by two to four times. Interacting with a hands-free, on-board computer was considered a greater distraction than using a cell phone.

While the automobile industry scrambles to develop more sophisticated in-cab information and entertainment devices for drivers, this research shows cars cannot be safely operated with the devices and in-vehicle services we already have.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates more than 3,000 people were killed in distracted driving accidents in 2011, with another 387,000 people injured. This study poses a provocative question about designing ourselves to death. Can distracted drivers be turned back? Time will tell.