Distracted Driving–“It has to be safe to use my smart phone while stopped in traffic.”

Reprinted from The Legal Examiner – By Joel Feldman, November 12, 2015

Since 2012, I have spoken with more than 50,000 adults and teens about distracted driving. Many of them admit to using smart phones while driving, but only doing so when stopped in traffic. As soon as the light turns green, or traffic begins to move, they say they put the phone down. I felt uncomfortable with anyone using a smart phone while driving, even when stopped, but I did not have a good argument against that practice. If the phone is down and the driver is looking at the road before proceeding, what could be the danger?

It turns out that our smart phones are so mentally engaging that even after we put them down our brains are still focused on them and it takes valuable time to re-focus on our driving after we begin to move.

These were the results recently reported from studies funded by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and conducted by researchers David Strayer and Joel Copper at the University of Utah. Test subjects were asked to use only voice-activated features on their phones to perform texting, making calls and changing radio stations. By using only voice-activated features — like Siri for iPhones — researchers were able to isolate effects that would be limited to just cognition, and remove effects that would be caused by manually operating controls or visually looking away from the road to do so. Google Now, Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana were studied. The researchers found that drivers who used these voice-activated features on their phones had significantly increased reaction times for detecting potential hazards for up to 18 seconds after stopping the smart phone use.


Lasting Effects of Mental Distraction

We know have persuasive arguments to present when educating drivers about the not-so obvious risks of using smart phones while driving. We need to be focused entirely on driving and losing up to 18 seconds of focus could result in a tragedy.

Click here to see the entire report and read about a similar study conducted on factory-installed voice-activated features in cars.