Is The Rise of Technology Making Our Roads More Dangerous?

Modern technology has definitely made our world smaller, making it easier to connect with one another no matter your location. However, the rise of technology has proven to be a double-edged sword. The use of cell phones, GPS systems, tv/video systems and even the radio causes visual, manual and cognitive distractions while a person is attempting to drive. Every year hundreds of thousands of people are injured and thousands more killed in automobile accidents due to distracted driving. Hank Stout, a Houston car accident lawyer, has seen this happen countless times. Below, he shares just exactly how dangerous these distractions can be.


Hundreds of billions of text message are sent each month in the United States alone. Reading or composing a text message takes an average of 4.6 seconds of your attention, if driving at highway speeds, you would travel the length of an entire football field in that amount of time. Additional research notes that over a half a million people are driving distracted in the US at any given time. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that an accident occurs every 24 seconds due to distracted driving, and resulted in over 3300 deaths in 2011.


The three main types of distractions linked to electronic use while driving are visual, manual and cognitive. Visual and manual distractions are easier to understand with the act of texting or reading email while driving; but cognitive distractions involve multitasking of the brain. When the brain is multi-tasked its ability to process information is diminished. In a National Safety Council (NSC) study published in 2012 notes that people talking on a cellular telephone while driving develop ‘tunnel vision’ thus missing an average of 50% of their surroundings, increasing the probability of an accident.


With the use of cell phones identified as the cause of accidents and deaths, the market attempted to fix the solution with the introduction of accessories such as Bluetooth connections, voice commands to compose text messages and wireless earpieces. While these technologies combat the visual and manual types of distractions, they do nothing to elevate cognitive distractions; and could even be counter-productive to its original intention. The use of these devices could promote using cell phones more due to people believing the device elevates distractions while driving.


After market attempts to fix the problem of distracted driving, and the number of fatal accidents continued to rise, the government stepped in with their attempt to solve the issue. The federal government instituted regulations aimed at commercial drivers, making it illegal for drivers to use cell phones, in a moving vehicle, if the operation requires pressing more than one button. While the commercial driver regulations have not been added to state law for the everyday driver, they have been introduced on the local level along with a national campaign against texting while driving.

The federal commercial regulations only enforce the market solutions, which do not deal with cognitive issues. Without dealing with the cognitive distraction, the use of cell phones will continue to be a root cause of both fatal and non-fatal accidents. The only way to combat the cognitive distraction of electronic devices in vehicles will be the restriction of use while driving. Enforcement of this type of regulation will prove extremely difficult, if not impossible. This impossibility will once again call on the open market to develop a solution, perhaps software that interfaces with GPS signals to lock electric devices from being used while a vehicle is in motion.

Hank Stout is a personal injury lawyer at Sutliff & Stout, PLLC located in Austin and Houston, Texas. For more information on this subject, connect with Sutliff & Stout, PLLC on Facebook and Google+.

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