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Talking to passengers distracts drivers, study concludes

In a recent year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that there were 391,000 injuries and 3,477 fatalities in the United States due to distracted driving.

Little Rock residents understand that there are many types of distracting behaviors that can affect one's driving ability — texting, interacting with electronic devices, and even eating or drinking.

But few realize that simply having a conversation with a passenger can distract drivers and cause them to take longer to recognize potential hazards ahead as well as reacting more slowly to them.

Researchers at the University of Iowa conducted a study of drivers talking on cellphones versus chatting with a passenger. They discovered that any conversation leads to "attention disengagement" lag. In layman's terms, that means that drivers' focusing abilities lessen regardless of the way they converse. These findings were published in Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, an academic journal that is published online.

The research was conducted utilizing computers. While the participants were answering true or false questions, the equipment tracked their eye movements. Those subjects who were answering questions took nearly two times as long to redirect their eyes to additional objects that appeared in front of them on the computer screen than those who hadn't been responding to questions.

A corresponding author of the published paper who also is a professor in the Psychological and Brain Sciences Department at the university explained that the experiment was intended to simulate drivers having conversations, either via cellphone or in person.

When you consider how many conversations that take place within vehicles between drivers and their passengers every day, it's disconcerting to discover that even that simple pastime could cause or contribute to driver errors and accidents.

While the attention lag is just 40 milliseconds — give or take a millisecond or two — that four-hundredths of a second is compounded every time drivers' brains are distracted. The study showed that the time it takes our brains to disengage from one activity (talking) to another (paying attention to the road ahead) lengthens with each conversational interaction.

If you consider a typical conversation in a vehicle, one person says something, which is heard and interpreted by the driver, who then appropriately responds. The active listening causes drivers to delay diverting their attention back to driving.

As you may assume from the study's conclusions, there are a great many collisions that possibly could be attributed, wholly or in part, to drivers' distraction. Your Little Rock personal injury attorney can use the firm's resources to fully investigate the circumstances surrounding your auto accident.

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