Distracted driving is not a new phenomenon, but it has become a growing problem in recent years due, for the most part, to the prevalence of cellphones and mobile devices.While many states have moved forward to pass laws attempting to curb drivers’ cellphone use, drivers are still succumbing to distractions behind the wheel – and that may be partially due to the fact that many motorists are unaware of the facts and impacts of driver distraction.
To elucidate just how problematic and dangerous distracted driving is, below, we have presented some of the more common myths about this behavior, dispelling them with the actual facts (many of which have been affirmed by research).
Distracted Driving Myths Debunked
1 – Multitasking while driving is not risky or unsafe.
Fact – False! Multitasking behind the wheel is incredibly risk because it can impair motorists’ perception and reaction times. This is because, when drivers split their attention between driving and even one other task:
- Their brains (and eyes) will not be focused on driving 100 percent of the time.
- Switching focus between the two (or more) tasks means that motorists will miss seeing at least some of the visual cues in their driving environments.
- This can end up meaning that motorists miss seeing important things like red lights, traffic signs, brake lights from other motorists, and even motorcyclists or pedestrians.
2 – Hands-free devices are safer than cellphones.
Fact – False again! Regardless of whether drivers are holding cellphones, the mere fact that they are talking on cellphones is sufficient to create a dangerous distraction. That is because, even if motorists are not holding a mobile device, talking to someone on the other end of the line can cause “inattention blindness.” This is a phenomenon in which motorists don’t see things even though they are looking directly at them.
According to research out of Carnegie Mellon University, the inattention blindness caused by talking on hands-free devices (and hand-held cellphones) can cause motorists to not see as much as half of all of the visual cues in their surroundings.
3 – There’s no difference between talking on the phone and talking to someone else in the car.
Fact – Not true! Interestingly, research out of the University of Utah has revealed that talking on the phone is way more dangerous than talking to someone else inside of a vehicle (i.e., another vehicle occupant). That’s because, as researchers found:
- Other vehicle occupants can alter their responses/conversation according to the driving conditions – In other words, someone else in the car can/may stop talking or wait to talk until a driver has completed more complicated driving maneuvers. In contrast, someone on the other end of the phone will not know that driving conditions are more complex and, consequently, won’t be able to tailor the conversation to allow drivers to better focus on driving when necessary.
- Other vehicle occupants add other sets of eyes to monitor driving conditions – This means that, should drivers miss seeing things like red lights (or other important driving cues), others in the vehicle can alert drivers to these cues (and, obviously, someone on the other end of the phone cannot do so).
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