Virginia residents know that driving takes a great deal of concentration. A driver must pay attention to his or her own vehicle and navigate the road ahead, while at the same time observing other vehicles on the road, as well as weather and road conditions. A distracted driver is one who is not properly paying attention to the conditions surrounding him or her. Distracted drivers can be dangerous drivers, and lead to more than 3,000 deaths in car crashes each year.

One particularly dangerous form of distracted driving occurs when a driver is cognitively distracted, which happens when a driver’s mind is not fully focused on the task at hand. It may be expected that visual distraction, when a driver’s eyes are off the road, or manual distractions, when a driver’s hands are off the wheel, can elevate the risk of car accidents, but a study performed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that cognitive distractions seriously affect drivers’ focus as well, posing potentially dangerous hazards on the road.

Cognitively distracted drivers are more likely to miss cues and have decreased driving accuracy, as well as a decreased ability to visually scan the driving environment. Activity in areas of the brain that are essential to promote safe driving is reduced if a driver is cognitively distracted.

There are a number of activities that may lead a driver to be cognitively distracted while driving. Hand-held cellphone use, as well as hands-free cellphone use, can both cause cognitive distraction. Tuning into a vehicle’s radio, or listening to a book on tape may also lead to distraction, as may the presence of another passenger in the vehicle.

Virginia drivers can only ensure that they are fully cognitively alert on the road. Unfortunately, they cannot control other drivers’ actions. A person who has been injured by a distracted driver may wish to seek legal counsel to discuss his or her options for financial recovery.

Source: AAAfoundation.org, “Measuring Cognitive Distraction in the Automobile”, accessed Oct. 9, 2015