Distracted Driving and the Hangover Effect | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

We all know about the dangers of distracted driving and how just taking your eyes off the road even for a couple of seconds can have tragic consequences. Several years ago, there was a much-quoted study conducted by Virginia Tech Transportation Institute which found that a driver going 55 m.p.h. who takes their eyes off the road for just five seconds travels the length of an entire football field. Completely unaware of what is in front of them.

Distracted Driving Statistics

Unfortunately, these dangers have not stopped people from using their smartphones while they are driving for texting, emails, or checking their social media accounts. According to data from the National Safety Council, 47 percent of drivers say they use their smartphones while driving, either manually or with voice-activated features.  This is evident by the alarming number of fatal distracted driving accidents that take place every day across the country.

In response to these alarming statistics, vehicle and smartphone manufacturers are developing technology that will enable users to rely more and more on voice-activated usage, allowing drivers to still use their smartphones to communicate, but entirely hands-free.

But a new study found voice-activated technology can be just as dangerous because it takes almost half a minute before the driver’s brain catches up with what the eyes are seeing when the brain has been focused on something else while driving.


The Hangover Effect of Distracted Driving

The study, conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic & Safety, found what researchers referred to as a “hangover effect” when a driver has been engaging in an activity that distracts them from focusing on their driving. Researchers had participants do common tasks while they were driving, such as talking on the phone, listening to an audio book, and listening to voice-activated emails. They found that these activities cause an extreme distraction for drivers, compared to other tasks, like listening to the radio, which only caused a minimal distraction.

The study found that even if a driver is stopped at a light or parked while reading or listening to text messages, the brain is still focused on that activity and not on the driving when the driver begins driving again. Researchers compared this to an “inattentive blindness” where the driver is looking but doesn’t see what is in front of them – like pedestrians, cyclists, other vehicles, and traffic signals. It can take the brain up to 27 seconds to refocus.

New Technology

Will new technology help drive down the number of distracted driving crashes? It seems unlikely, based on the results of this study since the majority of new technology employs voice-activated features. One company has even developed a product which takes the information on a driver’s phone – like text messages, emails, or GPS – and puts the information on a small screen that is in front of the driver. This enables the driver to read their messages. While they are driving.

Contact a Va. Distracted Driving Accident Attorney Today

As dedicated Virginia car accident attorneys, we have successfully represented many victims and their families whose lives were forever changed because of the negligence of a distracted driver. The only way to end these accidents is for all drivers to put their phones away when getting behind the wheel of a vehicle.