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Study: Cognitive Distractions Pose Serious Risk For Drivers

>Study: Cognitive Distractions Pose Serious Risk For Drivers

Based on the findings of a AAA study, cognitive distractions may cause significant impairments for drivers, and may lead to auto accidents.

People face a number of distractions when they are behind the wheel in New York and elsewhere. These may include eating and drinking, talking on a cellphone, checking on their children or listening to the radio, among others. As a result of these activities and behaviors, drivers’ ability safely operate their motor vehicles may be compromised. According to Distraction.gov, 431,000 people suffered injuries in distracted driving accidents in 2014 alone.

Most distractions are categorized as manual, visual or cognitive, or as some combination of these. Manual distractions take motorists’ hands off of the wheel, while visual distractions take their eyes off of the road. Also known as mental distractions, cognitive distractions are those activities that take people’s minds of the task of operating a car. Of these, the least is known about cognitive distractions and how they affect motorists.


Researchers with the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted a study to measure how cognitive distractions affect driers. According to the study, they asked 38 men and women from the University of Utah to perform a serious of tasks in a lab, in a driving simulator and in an instrumented automobile. The researchers began by establishing a scale they could use to measure cognitive distractions. They accomplished this be monitoring the study’s participants as they drove in the lab, simulator and on the road without any distractions and while performing a series of complex math and word problems.

To measure drivers’ cognitive workloads, the study’s researchers analyzed their brainwave activity, eye and head movements, their response to a detection reaction task, their brake reactions and following distance, and other subjective workload ratings. They monitored the participants in each setting as they listened to the radio, listened to an audiobook, had a conversation with a passenger, had a conversation of a handheld phone and interacted with speech-to-text technology. The researchers then rated these tasks based on the level of effect they had on the motorists’ cognitive workloads in relation to the high and low rating scale anchors.


Based on the study’s findings, people do not have to have their hands off of the wheel or their eyes off of the road in order to be distracted. The study showed that cognitive distractions cause significant impairments for motorists. According to the study, these included the following:

  • Decreased visual scanning of the road and surrounding areas
  • Missed visual cues and accuracy
  • Slowed reactions
  • Suppressed brain activity in the areas needed for the safe operation of a vehicle

Due to these and other impairments, distracted drivers may be more likely to cause an auto collision. Such wrecks could lead to serious injuries or death for them, as well as for their passengers and the occupants of any other vehicles that are involved.


When people are injured in motor vehicles accidents in New York, they may require extensive medical treatment. This may lead to medical bills they had not anticipated or prepared for, as well as lost income while they are off of work recovering. In some situations, however, the at fault drivers may be held liable for these types of damages. Therefore, it may benefit those who have been involved in traffic collisions to discuss their situation with an attorney. A legal representative may explain their options, and help them determine if distractions may have contributed to their crash and resulting injuries.

2016-11-15T03:00:28+00:00 November 15th, 2016|Articles|Comments Off on Study: Cognitive Distractions Pose Serious Risk For Drivers