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Distracted Driving Awareness Efforts Take on Cognitive Overload

We live in a very distractible society. So many portable electronic gadgets are available, and the temptation to text or go online while behind the wheel is strong.

To cut through the information overload, it's good to set aside a certain period of time to focus on the problem. Accordingly, this month, Chicago car accident lawyers and other safety advocates are recognizing national Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

The tag line for this year's events is "One Text or Call Could Wreck it All." The U.S. Department of Transportation is spearheading the awareness efforts, in collaboration with partners in all fifty states.

Many of these efforts involve education. Some people still mistakenly believe that it's okay to use a cellphone while driving. But ten states now ban not only texting while driving, but also cellphone use.

Even if someone is using his or her smartphone for GPS navigation purposes, it's still taking that person's eyes off the road and dividing their attention. And that divided attention isn't safe.

Experts call it cognitive overload. The mind can't really focus on so many stimuli at once. The grim evidence of this is in the thousands of deaths and injuries every year from distracted driving accidents.

This is why the National Transportation Safety Board recommends that states prohibit not merely handheld mobile devices. The NTSB voted late last year to encourage states to also prohibit the use of hands-free devices - precisely because of the risk of cognitive overload.

Older forms of distracted driving, such as fiddling with the radio or a CD, are still problems too.

Source: "April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month," US Department of Transportation, 4-3-12

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