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If You Thought Drunk Driving Was Dangerous, Distracted Driving is Worse

Koester & Bradley

Why Cell Phone Distraction Is as Dangerous as Alcohol When Driving

Many of the other great authors writing for the Legal Examiner have addressed the distracted driving epidemic in a number of very good posts. Now Koester & Bradley, LLP is weighing in.

The dangers of drunk driving have received a lot of attention over the last several decades. This is due in large part from the amazing efforts from Mothers Against Drunk Driving and other dedicated organizations. Though it’s still a problem on our roads, most people acknowledge its dangers, and many consider it socially unacceptable.

This isn’t the case with cell phone distraction while driving. Since it’s a new phenomenon, it’s had less time to become common knowledge. In addition, many people believe their multitasking abilities enable them to drive safely while using a phone. They also generally believe that cell phone distraction isn’t as detrimental to driving as alcohol. Finally, given the “all work, no play” mentality embraced by American society, sneaking in a few emails on the road is often seen as a “necessary evil.”

While cell phone use doesn’t contribute to a broad range of social ills as alcoholism, it can be just as deadly to motorists. This is difficult for many to understand because alcoholic intoxication doesn’t stop when you finish your drink, whereas the distracted state goes away within a minute after finishing a cell phone call. However, it only takes a moment of distraction at the wrong time to cause an accident. In addition, many drivers make extensive use of their phones while on the road.

Here are two reasons why cell phone distraction causes impaired driving. These are obvious but important to keep in mind:

It Takes Your Eyes off the Road

When dialing a number, texting, or reading a text message, the eyes and the mind are taken off the road. A car moving at 60 mph will cover more than the length of a football field in the 5 seconds used when engaged in these distractions. However, because your mind is also taken off your driving, it can take up to 27 seconds to recover from the mental distraction. That’s the length of 6.6 football fields at 60 mph.
To summarize, you are driving blind for more than a football field, followed by driving while mentally impaired for an additional 6.6 football fields (or about the length of a Par Five and a Par Three put together).

It Takes Your Mind off the Road

The mental distraction of cell phone use occurs even when your eyes are on the road. In order to converse, you must divert some mental attention away from your driving task. This causes a phenomenon called inattention blindness. Diverting your attention away from the road not only diverts your thinking from your driving, it also diverts some of the brain’s resources away from processing visual input from the eyes. This causes objects and other details of the road to vanish, even though your eyes are focused on the road. This can make you blind to as much as 50% of the road scene. If you hear a honking horn, it may take you up to 27 seconds to respond because of the recovery time mentioned above.

If you want more information, search the Legal Examiner for more articles from other safety advocates and stay informed.

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