It’s well known that distractions such as texting and cell phone use while driving are an epidemic on our roads. But a new study shows that the dangers of distracted driving can linger long after the driver puts the cell phone down.
For up to 27 seconds after sending a text message, making a phone call or updating social media, drivers can experience a “hangover effect” where the mind stays distracted, according to a study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic & Safety. That means, for example, that drivers who text while stopped at a red light – which may seem fairly benign – remain distracted after the light turns green and they start moving again.
A AAA spokesman described what is called “inattention blindness” – a dangerous state of mind where the driver is looking at the road but not actually seeing people, vehicles, stop signs and other things in front of them, according to a CNBC article about the study.
That means drivers who think they are being perfectly safe may actually be at serious risk of causing car accidents – and the victims are often vulnerable road users such as cyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists.
Laws may lag behind the progress of technology
Laws related to distracted driving vary from state to state. Here in Alabama, texting while driving is illegal, and cell phone use is illegal for teen operators who have been licensed for less than six months. Texting while driving is also banned for commercial truckers nationwide.
Of course, just because something is illegal doesn’t mean the danger is gone. Many motorists ignore these laws, believing that they know better than the law when it comes to keeping themselves safe. The law itself may be lagging behind the progress of technology, too. For instance, the Alabama Department of Public Safety recommends using hands-free devices to make phone calls while driving, but the AAA study indicates that going hands-free doesn’t really make much difference in terms of safety. The driver’s mind remains distracted regardless of whether or not his or her hands are on the wheel or on a phone.
We’ve seen firsthand the seriousness of injuries caused by distracted drivers. Our recommendation is simple: If you need to make a call or send a message while driving, stop, pull over, and take a few moments after you put the device away to let your mind refocus on the road before you start driving again. And if you or a loved one has been hurt by a distracted driver, you need strong legal representation to get the compensation you deserve.