California motorists are banned from using hand-held cellphone devices while driving; however, hands free devices may pose a risk to drivers as well.
On any given day, it is not uncommon to pass a California motorist and see them talking on their hands free cellphone. California is one of 14 states in the nation that ban the use of hand-held cellular devices while driving, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. This forces many busy residents to use their hands free device if they wish to talk on their cellphones while driving. Although a study released by the University of California, Berkley found that the overall rate of motor vehicle fatalities has dropped by 22 percent since the state enacted the hand-held cellphone ban in July 2008, studies show that distracted driving caused by hands-free cellphone use may present a significant danger to motorists as well.
According to distraction.gov, there are several types of distractions that can divert a driver’s focus off of driving. Manual and visual distractions require a driver to remove their hands from the steering wheel and their eyes from the road. The third type of distraction, referred to as cognitive distraction, involves the driver taking their mental focus and attention off of the task of driving, which puts people at risk for causing a car accident.
The National Safety Council reports how mental distractions can cause people to look at their driving environment but fail to see and process up to 50 percent of essential information within that environment. “Inattention blindness” is directly related to the brain’s inability to multitask effectively. The report describes how the human brain has a limited capacity for attention. When the brain is overwhelmed with too much information from trying to complete two or most tasks simultaneously, such as maintaining a conversation and driving, it is forced to choose which data should be processed.
As the brain attempts to concentrate on two different tasks, it constantly switches focus from one task to the other, which can be dangerous if the driver must respond to a sudden hazard, such as bad weather conditions, objects or animals in the road, work zones, speed limit changes or other drivers’ behavior, according to the NSC. Cognitive distractions can cause a decrease in reaction time, or the time it takes for a driver to notice a hazard and respond by braking or swerving.
A study conducted by the University of Utah showed that distracted drivers using their cellphones had a slower reaction time when compared to drivers who were intoxicated with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent, which is the legal limit in California and most other states in the nation.
People who are involved in a distracted driving car accident may experience severe injuries, as well as physical and emotional trauma as a result. Partnering with a personal injury attorney may help accident victims obtain compensation to help with medical expenses, property damage and emotional suffering.