Alcohol and drug-impaired driving are the typical and more popular causes of drivers not giving the road their full attention, and on their own they do enough damage. When smartphones are added to the mix, the likelihood of a driver being distracted drastically increases since a majority of the population of all ages and stages owns a mobile device. In 2019 alone, there was a 10% increase in the percentage of crashes that involved a distracted driver. According to the report which cited these figures, the actual number of crashes is likely under-reported and researchers have even found that with each text sent behind the wheel, the likelihood of a crash increases.
People who use their smartphones while driving likely fall into the cohort of people who believe that they are great at multitasking. They may even have high productivity stats to back up their claim but, scientific evidence does not support the concept of the human mind being able to focus on more than one thing at once. The central point of attention will instead flow from one area of focus to another. In the case of drivers who text, the concept plays out pretty simply. If their eyes and focus are on the phone, there is no way their full attention is on the road and if their full attention is not on the road then they are, with certainty, driving distractedly.
Psychiatrist Allan Reiss, MD, and his colleagues designed a study looking at the very specific issue of the effect of phone distractions on the brain. Their published article shows what happens to the brain when you text and drive at the same time. To complete their assessment, they used an innovative method called functional near-infrared spectroscopy. The method is a type of brain monitoring technique that allows researchers to observe blood flow in the front part of the brain while the participant engages in a specific task. The participants in this study were put in a simulated scenario of them driving and observed while they interacted with their smartphones with varying levels of focus for 30 minutes.
Their findings from the simulation indicated that the more attention the phone demanded, the more blood rushed to the participants' prefrontal cortex and parietal cortex. Reiss noted that since “the prefrontal cortex and parts of the parietal cortex are explicitly involved in attention allocation," then their finding meant that there is some kind of attention overload being experienced. Since there is that kind of clear indication, it shows that mobile phone use while driving is very much a huge distraction.
The researchers intend to do further observations, but their work so far gives clear evidence that phone use while driving is inadvisable. Policymakers clearly try to educate the population through their safety campaigns but individuals should also take responsibility to be informed about the dangers associated with distracted driving and also how they can act in a more responsible manner on the road. Victims of these careless drivers also need to remain aware they have a right to personal injury claims in case of accidents.