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Three ways cellphone use distracts drivers

Drivers who use cellphones suffer from three types of distraction: visual, manual and cognitive.

Cellphone use while driving has been shown to substantially increase the risk of accidents in Connecticut and throughout the United States. The Federal Communications Commission reported that text messaging while driving increases the risk of a motor vehicle accident by 23 times. They also reported that 18 percent of fatal car crashes in the United States during the year 2012 were due to driver distraction.

Despite the multitude of reports detailing the risks of driving while distracted, cellphone use while driving continues to be a major problem. A large portion of annual car accident injuries and fatalities are due to driver distractions such as smart phones. Mobile devices distract drivers in three distinct ways: visual, manual and cognitive.

Visual distraction

Visual distraction occurs when drivers take their eyes off of the road. Distraction.gov states that at any time during the day here in the U.S., mobile devices are in use by 660,000 drivers.

In addition to just using a phone to make calls, texting while driving is especially dangerous. According to the Federal Highway Administration, this activity carries a higher crash risk than all other distraction types because it actually involves all three forms of distraction. Distraction.gov points out that texting requires at least five seconds of the driver's attention. While that may not seem like a lot of time, a car can travel the length of a football field if it is going 55 miles per hour and it only takes a second for an accident to occur.

Manual distraction

Operating a smart phone while driving encourages drivers to take their hands off of the steering wheel and engage in what is termed manual distraction. A study on manual distraction shows that drivers who reach for phones or manually operate a phone increase their accident risk three times more than drivers who do not. Many drivers believe that using a headset is safer than holding a device, but another study disputes this myth, revealing that hands-free driving does not mean distraction-free driving.

Cognitive distraction

Cognitive distraction is often referred to as inattention blindness. When drivers are cognitively focused on something other than the road, they become almost completely blind to what is going on around them. A driver suffering from inattention blindness may appear to be alert, even when they are not processing everything around them.

Hands-free smart phone devices may reduce manual and visual distraction, but drivers can still become cognitively distracted while using them. A recent study was conducted by the American Automobile Association's Foundation for Traffic Safety on cognitive distraction. According to the study, drivers who use hands-free devices or talk on mobile devices show a level of impairment similar to drunk drivers. Drivers engaged in cognitive distractions hit the brake at a slower rate, did not scan their driving environment as often, and showed a decreased accuracy in identifying potential driving dangers.

What victims can do

Despite the obvious risks, there are still many people who continue to use cellphones while driving. Individuals who become injured due to a distracted driver's negligence may want to seek compensation by contacting a Connecticut personal injury attorney.

Keywords: distracted, driving, texting, accident