June 3, 2016 News
Woman sending text messages while driving.

Over the past few years, studies have revealed that drivers are distracted by all sorts of things, including using a dashboard GPS and talking solely hands-free on a cell phone. But a recent study from the University of Houston and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute has shown that not all distractions are created equal. In fact, texting is among the most dangerous.

The study compared the driving of 59 volunteers as they faced three common sets of distractions. Each driver maneuvered the same stretch of highway in each of four states:

  • In a normal alert state
  • Under distraction by cognitively challenging questions
  • Under distraction by emotionally charged questions
  • While actively texting

The results showed that each type of distraction affected the driver’s performance, but also found that a type of sixth sense protected the drivers when they were not texting.

Any distraction can impact driving but the brain can sometimes correct

The volunteers’ performance was clearly impacted in the face of each distraction, with their steering becoming “jittery”. However, when they were distracted by questions, whether cognition-based or emotion-based, their driving was actually straighter. But while texting, the distraction led them to veer into other lanes.

According to the scientists conducting the study, the phenomenon is related to the brain’s “fight or flight response” – this leads the body to respond with jittery operation. But a portion of the brain, the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), steps into action to counterbalance the jitters with alternate moves in the opposite direction, leading the vehicle on an ultra-straight path.

The key to the ACC’s correction mechanism is eyesight. The function relies on the driver’s eye-hand coordination, but that connection is broken when the driver looks away from the road to send or read a message. Those conducting the study referred to this as a sort of sixth sense that protects the drivers from danger while distracted, but this sense is cut short while texting.

Texting while driving is illegal in California

Distractions like texting while driving have an enormous impact on the road. It is estimated that 80 percent of vehicle crashes involve some sort of driver distraction. Across the country, up to 3000 people a year are killed in crash in crashes involving driver distractions. To curb these numbers, in 2008 California banned using a cell phone while driving and a year later specifically banned texting while driving. The base price of a ticket for texting is only $20 but counties add on fees so a texting violation in Los Angeles costs over $160.

A traffic ticket is only the beginning of the story. When a driver fails to operate a vehicle safely and does harm to others on the road, the victims may be entitled to compensation that can include reimbursement for medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and property damage.

Los Angeles car crash attorneys

An all too common bad decision – to send text messages while driving – leads to deaths and injuries around the country every single day. If you have been the victim of one of these distracted drivers, that fateful moment may leave years of medical and financial battles. Under the law, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. The California car crash lawyers at the Salamati Law Firm represent personal injury victims throughout Los Angeles County. For a free consultation, call 888-259-4060.

Resources:

  1. University of Houston, A Sixth Sense Protects Drivers Except When Texting, http://www.uh.edu/news-events/stories/2016/May/051216PavlidisTextingStudy.php