The dangers of cognitive distraction in New York

Hands free cellular devices, while legal in New York, are a significant source of driver distraction and increase the risk for car accidents, injuries and death.

New York has some of the strictest cellphone laws in the country. New York motorists are prohibited from talking or texting on hand held cellular devices while driving, according to Distraction.gov. In 2013, New York lawmakers strengthened the penalties for distracted driving, increasing the fine for talking on a hand held phone to $150 for a first offense. While some drivers continue to engage in this dangerous and illegal behavior, others have turned to using hands free devices as a way to stay in compliance with the law. Studies show, however, that even hands free cellphones can cause driver distraction and may increase the risk of car accidents.

Understanding driver distractions

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are three types of driver distractions, including cognitive, manual and visual. Manual and visual distractions are tasks that require use of drivers' hands and eyes, forcing them to remove their hands from the steering wheel and eyes off of the road. Cognitive distractions compel drivers to remove their focus and concentration off of driving. While texting involves all three types of distractions, talking on a hands free device is major source of cognitive distraction. Although the driver's hands and eyes are accessible for driving, his or her mind may be elsewhere.

A closer look at cognitive distraction

The National Safety Council evaluated over 30 studies conducted on cognitive distraction. They found that it is virtually impossible for drivers to effectively multi-task or complete two complex tasks at the same time. When a driver is actively engaging in a conversation, they have a reduced ability to respond to certain driving hazards, including objects in the road, bad weather conditions, pedestrians, traffic signals and even other drivers' careless driving behaviors. In fact, this cognitive distraction can cause drivers to not process up to 50 percent of the information in their field of vision. This alone may spell disaster for other motorists on the road who fall victim to drivers who are cognitively distracted.

Driver distractions can be deadly

In 2012, approximately 3,328 people were killed in car accidents caused by distracted motorists, some of whom may have been using hands free devices at the time. An additional 421,000 people were injured in similar accidents. Distracted driving accidents may result in serious injuries, including spinal cord damage, traumatic brain injury, broken bones, paralysis and even limb amputation.

Consult a NY attorney

Victims of distracted driving accidents may be unable to return to work for a period of time due to their injuries, making it hard to pay for the surmounting pile of expenses. In some cases, accident victims may receive compensation to help cover their medical costs, including lost wages, ongoing medical care and emotional trauma. An established New York attorney may provide essential legal counsel to victims of distracted driving car accidents during this hard time.

Keywords: distracted, driving, accident, injury