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The Dangerous Effects of Cognitive Distractions While Driving

We all know that talking on a cell phone and texting are dangerous and risky activities while driving. In fact, distracted driving is one of the leading causes of auto accidents. But new research shows that the dangerous of distracted driving extend far beyond just visual and manual distractions and recent AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety research shows that even mental tasks - or cognitive distractions - can impair a driver's ability to operate the vehicle safely.

Although hands-free technologies make it easier for motorists to text or talk on the phone while driving, new findings from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety show that dangerous mental distractions exist even when drivers keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road. The research found that as mental workload and distractions increase reaction time slows, brain function is compromised, and drivers scan the road less and miss visual cues, which can cause drivers to miss seeing stop signs, pedestrians and other things that are right in front of them.

Researchers look at a number of activities to find those that were the most mentally taxing and the results were surprising. Basically, researchers found that talking on a hands-free cell phone is just about as distracting as talking on a hand-held phone, and using voice-activated infotainment systems is the most distracting activity of all those analyzed.

According to AAA Foundation President and CEO Peter Kissinger, "These findings reinforce previous research that hands-free is not risk-free. Increased mental workload and cognitive distractions can lead to a type of tunnel vision or inattention blindness where motorists don't see potential hazards right in front of them."

Based on its research findings, AAA is recommending that the automotive and electronics industries consider exploring ways to reduce driving distractions by:


  • Limiting the use of voice-activated technology to core driving-related activities, such as climate control, windshield wipers and cruise control, and ensuring that these applications do not lead to increased safety risk due to mental distraction while a car is moving.

  • Disabling certain functionalities of voice-to-text technologies, such as using social media or interacting with e-mail and text messages, so that they are inoperable while the vehicle is in motion.

  • Educating vehicle owners and mobile device users about the responsible use and safety risks for in-vehicle technologies.


Texting and talking on a cell phone while driving can be incredibly dangerous, leading to serious auto accidents and trucking accidents.  In fact, in 2009 alone, nearly 5,500 fatalities and 500,000 injuries resulted from crashes involving a distracted driver, according to the NHTSA.

At Steinberg, Goodman & Kalish, our Chicago auto accident lawyers are dedicated to making Illinois roadways safer by minimizing distracted driving risks and helping the victims of auto accidents caused by distracted driving to obtain full and fair financial recovery.

If you were injured or a loved one died as a result of distracted driving, do not hesitate to contact the Chicago auto accident lawyers at Steinberg, Goodman & Kalish to schedule a free consultation to discuss a possible personal injury claim.

Steinberg Goodman & Kalish  (www.sgklawyers.com) is dedicated to protecting victims and their families.  We handle medical malpractice, product liability, personal injury, wrongful death, auto accidents, professional negligence, birth trauma, and railroad law matters. Contact us at (800) 784-0150 or (312) 782-1386.

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