Cognitive distraction: What is it?

Published on  Jan 14, 2015. Posted in Car Accidents

When people think of distracted driving, they generally think of texting or talking on a cellphone while driving. However, there are many distractive tasks Illinois drivers can engage in while behind the wheel. These activities can be organized into three main types of distractions: manual, visual and cognitive. Manual and visual distractions involve drivers who remove their hands from the steering wheel and take their eyes off of the road. Cognitive distractions, on the other hand, divert a driver’s mental focus from the road, which many Cook County car accident lawyers know can be deadly.

A closer look at distracted driving

Distracted driving killed approximately 3,328 people in 2012 and injured an additional 421,000 people, according to In an attempt to decrease the distracted driving fatality and injury rate, many states, including Illinois, have enacted laws banning drivers from texting or talking on a cellphone. Many people choose to use hands free or voice-activated devices while driving as a way to stay in compliance with the law. Yet, these devices are a major form of cognitive distraction and can lead to car accidents, injuries and death.

The dangers of cognitive distraction                                                

According to the National Safety Council, drivers who are cognitively distracted may have trouble processing vital data in their driving environment. While drivers may be looking straight ahead, they may be unable to see more than 50 percent of the information that lies right in front of them. This phenomenon, known as inattention blindness, can decrease a driver’s reaction time to objects, people or animals on the road. People who are cognitively distracted are more likely to run red lights, run stop signs and ignore crosswalk signals.

The NSC found that inattention blindness stems from the human brain’s inability to multitask. When motorists try to drive a vehicle and carry on a conversation, they are unable to complete both complex tasks at once. Instead, the brain is forced to switch back and forth between tasks, leaving moments in time where motorists are not focused on the road ahead.

Other distracting tasks

Although talking on a handheld or hands free cellular device while driving is considered one form of cognitive distraction, Cook County car accident lawyers know that there are several other cognitive tasks that motorists should avoid while driving. When drivers engage in an activity that removes their focus off of the road entirely, like talking to other passengers in the vehicle or even listening to the radio, it can interfere with the motorist’s ability to concentrate.

Despite state and federal laws, drivers continue to use their cellphones, killing and injuring innocent people in the process. In Cook County, car accident lawyers handle distracted driving collision cases all of the time and it may be beneficial for victims to speak with them.