January 10th, 2018
Causative factors of distracted driving – types of distractions
Various factors could lead to any of the three main forms of distraction – visual, manual and cognitive. Visual distraction involves the diverting of ones eyes from the road, manual distraction refers to taking ones hands off the wheel, while cognitive distraction is taking ones mind from the current task – of driving (White, 2010). All these modes of distraction pose a great risk of compromising the safety of driving. Visual distractors could for instance include composing, reading or sending a text message, dialing a telephone, changing the radio station, viewing scenery, and any other activity that results into one taking off ones eyes from the road even for a short time frame (White, 2010). Some of these visual distractors such as texting and changing the radio station are also part of the manual distractions since they involve taking ones hands off the wheel. Other manual distractions could for instance involve reaching for the globe compartment, cleaning the inside of the windshield, rolling down the windows of the car or more involving activities such as attending to children while still driving (White, 2010). For teens having peers as passengers has been suggested to increase the risk of getting distracted either manually or visually (Madden & Lenhart, 2009).
Texting on the phone triples in the distraction types as a cognitive distraction source through its virtue of being an intensive mind engaging activity; unlike reflex activities such as chewing gum that do not greatly reduce attention (White, 2010; NSC, 2010a). Other factors leading to cognitive distraction include speaking to passengers and listening to music (TIRF & CAA, 2006). While devices fitted into the car such as hands-free devices that come with voice recognition features and allow for voice activated dialing have eliminated visual and manual distractions, cognitive distraction part remains largely unattended by these devices (NSC, 2010a). Such critical contribution of cell phone use in distraction has for instance been buttressed in a study by the National Highway Traffic safety Administration (henceforth NHTSA) noting it to be the most common distraction task drivers engage in (2009a). With the note that many drivers use cell phones while driving and the important role played by cell phone use in all three types of distraction, the issue of cell phone use and cognitive distraction are explored further.
Understanding the cognitive distraction effect involves the knowledge of the brain drain that multitasking could result in. While multitasking could be viewed to help people accomplish many tasks concurrently, the effectiveness of performing all the tasks may not be assured (NSC, 2010a). When multitasking, accomplishment of the tasks could have robbed any of the tasks the focus it deserves thus curtail effectiveness (NSC, 2010a). Since the brain functions through switching from one task to the other rather than concurrence performance of the tasks, even though it appears that the tasks are simultaneously carried out due to the short time frames of such switching, multi tasking could lead to an overload thus affecting the effective performance of the tasks (NSC, 2010a).
To deal with any input of information, the brain undergoes a process but not an instantaneous response. Such a process involves information sorting, processing the prioritized information, encoding the processed information into a memory, and storage of the memory for further processes where necessary (NSC, 2010a). For the appropriate responses, these further processes involve the retrieval of the stored information and execution of the relevant response command from the retrieved information (NSC, 2010a). Incase of driving, which by its own virtue is comprised of multiple tasks, performance of secondary tasks could alter the attention levels dedicated to the primary tasks. Since all sensory information (e.g. sound, sight, and thought) must be first committed to short memory before retrieval, having multiple tasks for instance affects processes such as prioritization of the task to be processed resulting in “unconsciousness” of some of the potentially hazardous situations (NSC, 2010a). go to part 4 here.