The Myth and Lie of Phoning While Driving

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ROAD SAFETY BY JONAS AGWU

Did you read the first part of the multitasking myth behind driving and phoning? If you didn’t, please allow me rehash some or few of the myths to keep you the same page with other readers for your safety. One of the myth holds that talking on the Phone is like speaking to a passenger when in reality, backseat drivers are good for you. Adult passengers you must know, help the driver and alert drivers to traffic problem. On the other hand, people on the other end of phone cannot see what is going on within the driving environment. Yet another myth posits that speaking through the hands-free is safe to use while driving, when in reality drivers talking on the cell phones can miss seeing up to fifty percent of their driving environments; including pedestrians and red light.

There is yet another myth and if my count is correct this should be the fourth; the fourth myth which I presume has a lot of followership based on our enforcement and advocacy records submits that holding the phone at stop light is okay, safe and risk free. These categories will always argue when arrested that after all they were not moving since the red traffic light had stopped their lane. I must confess that it is really strange and astonishing to listen to adherents of this myth sound as if the mobile phone has more value over their life. According to experts, the reality is that, even at stop lights, it is important to remain an attentive driver. Recent studies by experts’ study shows that people are distracted up to twenty-seven seconds after they finish sending a voice text.

The last but not the least myth are for the information technology savvy frenzy whose position is that voice-to-text is safe to do while driving. Some of those in this category will brag about modern technology advancement. In fact, I remember a case where I was practically schooled by an offender who was quick to roll out her travel history to demonstrate her knowledge on recent developments in automobile. Yet the same individual was too ignorant to understand that there is a global crusade to cut road traffic crashes and fatalities. So in reality however, these group should be reminded that it is actually still very distracting to voice-text. This is because when you engage in this habit, you are not only mentally distracted, but you are visually distracted due to the common autocorrect errors.

It is therefore ironic that while the World Health Organization(WHO) is concerned about teen deaths and risk driving behavior, these teens and young drivers report the highest level of level of phone involvement in crash or near-crash incidences. Although I could not lay my hands on recent research findings on the category guilty of these myth, a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration survey in the United States of America found that twenty percent of drivers aged between 18-20 said texting does not affect their driving, and nearly thirty percent of drivers ages 21-34 said texting has no impact.

Equally disturbing is the crazy and weird attitude of newly licensed teen drivers who are deviants when it comes to distracted driving. This explains another the experimentation which placed data recorders in the vehicles of young drivers to capture video, audio, sudden braking, abrupt turns and other information. I know that most drivers boast about their knowledge on distracted driving. Some brag that they are masters in maneuvering with the phone and even multitasking. Recent findings say otherwise. I know hands-free technologies might make it easier for motorists to text, talk on the phone, or even use Facebook while they drive, but new findings show dangerous mental distractions exist even when drivers keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road.

The research found that as mental workload and distractions increase, reaction time slows, while brain function is compromised. The result is that drivers scan the road less and miss visual cues, potentially resulting in drivers not seeing items right in front of them including stop signs and pedestrians. This is the most comprehensive study of its kind to look at the mental distraction of drivers and arms experts with evidence to appeal to road users not to use these voice-to-text features while their vehicle is in motion. Now that there has been a five-fold increase in infotainment systems in new vehicles since 2018, there is the need for sustained action to address this trend because of the looming public safety crisis ahead with the proliferation of these in-vehicle technologies. Some experts are calling for limiting new and potentially dangerous mental distractions built into cars, particularly with the common public misperception that hands-free means risk-free.

Cognitive distraction experts have measured brainwaves, eye movement and other metrics to assess what happens to drivers’ mental workload when they attempt to do multiple things at once, building upon decades of research in the aerospace and automotive industries. The research included cameras mounted inside an instrumented car to track eye and head movement of drivers and a detection-response-Task device known as the “DRT” used to record driver reaction time in response to triggers of red and green lights added to their field of vision. A special electroencephalographic (EEG)-configured skull cap was used to chart participants’ brain activity so that researchers could determine mental workload They also used established research protocols borrowed from aviation psychology and, drivers engaged in common tasks, from listening to an audio book or talking on the phone to listening and responding to voice-activated emails while behind the wheel. Researchers used the results to rate the levels of mental distraction drivers experienced while performing each of the tasks. Their findings revealed that tasks such as listening to the radio ranked as a category “1” level of distraction or a minimal risk; while talking on a cell-phone, both handheld and hands-free, resulted in a “2” or a moderate risk. In addition, l listening and responding to in-vehicle, voice-activated email features increased mental workload and distraction levels of the drivers to a “3” rating or one of extensive risk. What these findings reveal is that they reinforce previous findings that hands-free is not risk-free.

“Increased mental workload and cognitive distractions can lead to a type of tunnel vision or inattention blindness where motorists don’t see potential hazards right in front of them, said an expert. These findings experts uphold call for the following; limiting use of voice-activated technology to core driving-related activities such as climate control, windshield wipers and cruise control, and to ensure these applications do not lead to increased safety risk due to mental distraction while the car is moving. It also calls for disabling certain functionalities of voice-to-text technologies such as using social media or interacting with e-mail and text messages so that they are inoperable while the vehicle is in motion. Lastly they call for educating vehicle owners and mobile device users about the responsible use and safety risks for in-vehicle technologies