Cognitive distraction can lead to catastrophic accidents

Motorists driving along Louisiana roadways are not always concentrating solely on the road. While some may be texting or taking selfies with their cell phone, others may be talking to other passengers in the car or searching for their favorite song on the radio.

Yet, these cognitive distractions can lead to serious, potentially fatal car accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distractions led to more than 2,800 deaths and over 400,000 injuries in motor vehicle collisions in 2018 alone.

What is cognitive distraction?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that one in nine people die as a result of distractions while driving. The CDC lists three main types of distractions: cognitive, manual and visual. Manual and visual distractions involve tasks that require drivers to physically take their hands off the steering wheel or remove their eyes from the road. However, cognitive distractions occur when motorists focus on a task other than driving. These distractions are equally dangerous as drivers may feel as though they are avoiding distractions.

What are the dangers of cognitive distraction?

The human brain cannot focus on two complex tasks, such as driving and talking on a cell phone, at the same time. Rather than concentrate on both tasks at once, the brain quickly bounces back and forth from one activity to the other. This leaves periods of time where the driver is not focused on the road at all. During these times drivers may:

  • Run red lights
  • Go through stop signs
  • Avoid pedestrian crosswalks

Drivers may be unable to respond to hazards, such as bad weather conditions, objects in the road and other drivers.