AAA and University of Utah Detail Dangers of Mental Distraction

Posted on June 12, 2013

More evidence continues to arrive which details the danger not just of manual texting while driving, but any kind of distraction that takes one’s focus from the road.  It’s becoming increasingly clear that such a distraction can be just as dangerous as removing one’s eyes completely from traffic.

The new evidence, which hails from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and researchers with the University of Utah, is considered the first study that looks this extensively at the impact that distractions have on mental acuity.  When such dangers pile up, drivers have been shown to misidentify visual hazards in their environment and react to danger much more slowly.

150 drivers were put through the rigors of a driving simulator and a real-world traffic exercise in Salt Lake City while hooked up to a device that kept track of eye movement, brain waves, and more.  During the test, drivers were instructed to speak on the phone, answer emails via voice applications, and listen to books on tape.  The more such activities piled up, the less likely a driver was to react in time to obstacles or take visual cues into account.

AAA hopes that these findings can be used to get automakers to cut down on in-car distractions.  They’re also urging the NHTSA to issue new guidelines about mental distraction.

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