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Hands free cellphone distraction: What CA drivers should know

Cognitive distractions from using a hands free cellphone while driving can lead to serious auto accidents.

California has several laws in place to minimize driver distractions and maximize safety for everyone on the road. Drivers in Los Angeles and across the state are prohibited from talking and/or texting on a hand-held cellphone while behind the wheel, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. In order to comply with the law, many motorists have switched to using hands free cellular devices. These cellphones allow drivers to maintain a conversation without having to use their hands or take their eyes off of the road. While these devices may be safer to use than hand-held devices, studies show that they still act as a significant distraction to drivers and could even contribute to a serious motor vehicle accident.

What is cognitive distraction?

When a driver is engaged in a task that puts their focus on something other than the road, they are considered cognitively distracted. According to researchers from the National Safety Council, the human brain is not able to multitask, or complete two complex activities, such as driving and talking on a cellphone, at the same time. Although a motorist may feel as though he or she is able to talk on the phone and drive safely, it is physiologically impossible. Rather than concentrate on both tasks simultaneously, the brain moves back and forth from one task to the other. This consistent switching means that there are certain brief moments where the brain is not concentrating on driving at all.

Inattention blindness

During the moments when the brain is involved in the conversation, drivers may experience inattention blindness. This term describes the times when drivers are looking forward, but are unable to process up to 50 percent of the information in their driving environment. Drivers who are talking on a cellphone are less likely to stop at pedestrian crosswalks, obey traffic signals, react to hazards in the road and safely maneuver through bad weather conditions.

After knowing this information, many people wonder whether talking on a hands free cellphone while driving is really a safe alternative to using a hand-held cellular device. Experts conclude that the best way to avoid cognitive distraction while driving is to not use any type of cellphone while behind the wheel.

Obtaining legal assistance

Unfortunately, not everyone complies with the law, and some people continue to engage in distractive activities while driving. If you have been involved in an auto accident caused by a distracted or otherwise negligent driver, you may have several questions regarding your legal options and rights. An attorney in Los Angeles may be able to help answer your questions and help you formulate a case.