Distracted driving accidents are actually caused by one of three main components of driver distraction: visual, manual, or cognitive, distractions, according to a recent research publication. Visual distractions involve a driver taking his or her eyes off of the road, manual distractions involve eating or other activities that remove a driver’s hands from the wheel, and cognitive distractions involve anything that takes a driver’s mind off the task of driving. Accidents as a result of distracted driving are expected to make up approximately 10% of all injury-related car accidents.
The study, conducted by the AAA Foundation, used three different experiments to get results: those done in a lab, those done with a driving simulator, and those done with an instrumented vehicle. The study measured reaction time and accuracy to peripheral light detective, subjective workload ratings, and brake reaction time. Six common tasks were analyzed in each of the three experiments, such as listening to an audiobook, listening to the radio, conversations on a hands-free phone, interacting with a speech to text email system, conversations on a handheld phone, and conversations with a passenger.
The researchers found that cognitive distractions had a clear impact on driver impairment. Drivers had suppressed brain activity, increased reaction time, decreased visual scanning of the driving equipment, and missed cues that should have been incorporated into their driving behavior. The final research results also indicated that driver interactions through speech to text systems actually created the highest level of cognitive distraction of all the examined tasks.