Most people understand the danger of driving distracted. It used to be listening to the radio, reaching for something in the car or turning to talk to a passenger. As if that weren’t enough, now mobile electronic devices have become the biggest temptation and potential distraction for drivers and have even prompted many states to make policy changes in response.
In 2011, Indiana enacted legislation to prohibit texting while driving. The law prohibits all drivers from texting while driving, with a $500 penalty for offenders. As in all states with texting laws, even as a primary offense, it is difficult for law enforcement to identify drivers who are texting while they drive.
While texting with a handheld device is against the law, hands-free communication remains legal. Recent studies by the American Automobile Association (AAA) sought to identify whether hands-free driving is a safer alternative. It seems it is not. The study found the following:
- Tasks like listening to the radio or speaking with a passenger increase cognitive load on the brain.
- Increased cognitive distraction also increases reaction time and the likelihood of missed cues in the visual field.
- Hands-free driving is not risk free. Voice-to-text communication proved more hazardous than speaking on a handheld cell phone.
This important study and others add to the growing body of research that people cannot multitask while behind the wheel. While the consequences in Indiana may be $500 for texting while driving, noted filmmaker Werner Herzog created a short documentary, From One Second to the Next, that reveals the real consequences of distracted driving. Financed by AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile, the effort is intended to serve as a public service announcement about the real dangers and effects of distracted driving.