Denver Distracted Driving Accident Lawyers
Driving is a complex task, requiring the concurrent execution of various cognitive, physical sensory, and psychomotor skills. Drivers are expected to synchronously pay attention to their surroundings, track locations of surrounding vehicles, navigate, and anticipate hazards. This level of multitasking involves competition for limited neural resources, such that engagement in one task affects performance of another.
As many features of driving become automated with experience, most drivers are capable of dividing their focus between various driving and non-driving tasks without any serious consequences to safety. Unfortunately, when drivers temporarily focus on tasks or events unrelated to driving, their awareness and/or performance can be adversely affected. Distracted driving occurs when drivers divert their attention from driving to focus on some other activity.
Despite the propagation of information in the last decade, car collisions predicated on distracted driving continue to be a major problem in America. In fact, federal estimates suggest distraction contributes to 5,000 deaths every year. The use of electronic devices has recently garnered the most public attention. Drivers are increasingly using cell phones for communication, entertainment, and internet. The proliferation of cell phone use has resulted in widespread efforts to increase awareness of the dangers of distracted driving by insurance companies, safety advocates, transportation agencies, and public health organizations. Such efforts have resulted in an unprecedented level of national commitment and legislation, designed to make roads safer.
Our Denver Distracted Driving Accident Lawyers see the consequences of distracted driving first hand. We therefore find it necessary to help educate the public. Unfortunately, contrary to popular belief, cell phone usage is just part of the problem. The true problem encompasses a much wider range of activities, many of which are seemingly normal aspects of driving. While the gruesome commercials appearing on television are important, drivers must understand the various facets of distracted driving to properly address the epidemic.
What is Distracted Driving?
Many people believe they can effectively switch attention from one task to another. The human mind is only capable of consciously focusing attention on one task at any given time. With the mind encounters too much content, it must decide what will receive attention. Some of these decisions can be controlled while others are subconscious in nature. Distracted driving affects visual perception, cognitive ability, and manual functioning. According to one author:
The primary task of a fighter pilot is to fly the plane, and what we might regard as distracter tasks, such as monitoring for and defeating enemy targets, are for the pilot just part of the job. Fighter pilots are carefully selected for their jobs – only people who are superior at performing two or more tasks at the same time are chosen to fly. Not only that, they are given proper training in how to effectively multi-task – because we know that training and practice can improve our ability to resist distraction. If during the design of a fighter aircraft, it is determined that all of the tasks that have to be performed – even with automation – are too much for one pilot to cope with, then the aircraft is designed for two pilots, so that we might regard as the distracter tasks can be shared or delegated to the co-pilot or navigator.
We have a totally different mindset about distraction in the road safety domain. The mindset of the vehicle manufacturer is that control of the vehicle should be in the hands of the driver only. The mindset of the driver is that the passenger is a back seat driver than a co-pilot, even though the passenger has an extra set of eyes, ears, and hands. The mid-set of the road safety community is that driving means looking out for hazards, navigating to a destination, and controlling the vehicle.
The combination of experience, driving environment, and cognitive limitations place every driver at risk of significant distractions.
What is a Visual Distraction?
The visual input is the most important source of information for drivers. Unfortunately, it would be impossible to give full processing ability to everything there is to be seen. A visual distraction is described as “eyes-off-the-road.” Research demonstrates new drivers predominately look forward because they have inadequate mental models associated with driving. As these drivers interact with other vehicles and observe behaviors of other drivers, they accumulate memories, which help guide them through unfamiliar environments in the future. As they grow more comfortable, they are able to predict the behaviors of other drivers and anticipate developments.
It is through this process drivers know where to look to collect the most relevant information. Experienced drivers constantly scan their surroundings to be aware of speeds, traffic, lane positions, vehicles, and hazards. To minimize risks, experienced drivers use a safety mechanism of limiting the amount of time of focusing on any given object.
Inexperienced drivers tend to focus on secondary tasks for too long. In fact, research reveals inexperienced drivers allocate upwards of 50% of their visual attention to secondary tasks completely unrelated to driving. Distraction in this context includes attending to any task other than driving, such as looking at billboards or using a cell phone. The risk of an accident increases dramatically when a driver cannot visually focus on the primary task of driving.
What is a Cognitive Distraction?
Cognitive distraction affects driving by disrupting the allocation of visual attention to driving and the processing of attended information. Stated otherwise, when a driver multitasks, they can suffer from cognitive overload. At that point, no task will receive optimal attention of focus. A cognitive distraction is best described as “mind-off-the-road.”
As previously identified, distracted driving has become synonymous with cell phone usage, but that is just one component. Cognitive distractions surround drivers. Most new vehicles are equipped with state-of-the-art technology, such as entertainment operations, navigation systems, multifunction controllers, and even internet capabilities. While a technologically complex vehicle is savvy, drivers are forced to focus on more controls. These are on top of the distractions of everyday living, such as conversing, reading, eating, grooming, and surfing the web.
To illustrate, a simulator study conducted at Carnegie Mellon University examined MRI readings of volunteer’s brains while they drove and listened to spoken statements. The volunteers were simply asked to determine if the statements were true or false. The results showed activity in the brain’s parietal lobe (associated with navigation and spatial processing) and occipital lobe (associated with processing visual information) decreased significantly. Even when engaging in discussion, driving is affected, especially when secondary tasks become more complex.
Safe driving requires the ability to concentrate and divide attention between multiple sensory events across visual and auditory modalities. Drivers must have the ability to make fast cognitive decisions in a complex and quickly shifting environment. This is why cognitive function is so important to safe driving. Accidents are more prone to occur when a driver cannot pay attention to the primary task of driving.
Distractions Increase Likelihood of Crashes
The final categorization of distracted driving is manual. This occurs when a driver manipulates things other than the steering wheel. All three types of distractions degrade driving performance. Distracted drivers commit a wide variety of driving errors, which continuously increase the likelihood of being involved in or causing crashes. Some common distractions include:
- Talking to a passenger;
- Tuning a car radio;
- Looking for CDs;
- Reaching for an object inside the vehicle;
- Looking at an object inside the vehicle;
- Looking at an object or event outside of the vehicle;
- Applying makeup;
- Changing clothes;
- Writing a Speech;
- Talking on a cell phone;
- Texting or emailing on a cellular device;
- Surfing the web.
Any activity that distracts the driver from the primary task of driving has the potential to compromise safety and increase crash risk. Safety is always compromised when a driver no longer allocates sufficient attention to the task of driving. When a driver operates a motor vehicle in a distracted fashion, the driver is negligent and responsible for the harms caused.
Contact Our Denver Personal Injury Lawyers
The Denver Distracted Driving Accident Lawyers at Bowman & Chamberlain, LLC, work hard to defend the rights of those injured in distracted driving accidents. Through our efforts, we hope to further publicize the dangers of distracted driving while insuring negligent drivers are held accountable for their actions. If you have been involved in a car accident involving a distracted driver, contact the Denver personal injury lawyers at Bowman & Chamberlain, LLC, for free consultation.
At Bowman & Chamberlain, LLC, we care about our community and the people in it. To help aid the fight against distracted driving, our Denver personal injury lawyers designed a program that educates the public. Our lawyers help raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving through presentations and encouraging individuals to make responsible choices. If you would like to learn more about these presentations, contact the Denver personal injury lawyers at Bowman & Chamberlain, LLC, today.
If you have been involved in an accident, contact our Denver Distracted Driving Accident Lawyers by calling 720.863.6904 or email us for your free consultation. Legal representation is often necessary to ensure you collect the full compensation you deserve. Without a knowledgeable attorney on your side, your insurance company of the at-fault driver may attempt to settle your claim for far less than it is worth.
Our Denver personal Injury Lawyers handle a wide range of cases, including Car Accidents, Bicycle Accidents, Bike Accidents, Motorcycle Collisions, Pedestrian Accidents, Slip and Fall Accidents, Dog Bite Accidents, and any other form of personal injury in Arvada, Aurora, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Commerce City, Lakewood, Littleton, Thornton, Westminster, Wheat Ridge, and other parts of metropolitan Denver, Colorado.