Texting while Driving Impairs Sixth Sense

driver textingTexting behind the wheel has been shown to impact the manual, visual, and cognitive functions of a driver. Now, a new study theorizes that this distraction could also impair a driver’s so-called sixth sense; their ability to quickly adapt when facing challenging driving scenarios.

A driver’s brain is able to maintain a portion of their attention on driving, despite being bombarded by stressors such as emotional distractions and challenging questions. Despite this amazing ability, it becomes ineffective when a driver texts.

Fifty-nine subjects familiarized themselves with the equipment before they were observed by researchers while completing simulator driving tests. Researchers posed questions designed to trigger emotions and critical thinking while the driving test was conducted. In a second simulation, researchers instructed participants to text. In a third simulation, drivers faced mixed stressors during the test.

Researchers analyzed the simulator data, focusing on the driver’s departure from their lane when facing stressors, as well as sensor-detected perspiration levels. In each of the three driving scenarios, stress did affect the drivers’ steering accuracy, though only during the texting simulation were lane departures deemed dangerous. When faced with emotionally and mentally difficult questions from researchers, the drivers maintained visual focus on the road and kept their steering fairly straight.

The brain’s anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is responsible for the “fight or flight” instinct, and supplies the energy a driver needs to perform corrections and steer effectively when facing mentally and emotionally distracting challenges behind the wheel. Hand-eye coordination largely assists the ACC in performing such maneuvers; when both the eyes and hands leave the wheel, such as while texting, the ACC is impaired, and corrective driving maneuvers cannot be performed.

Texting is a highly dangerous distraction, as the activity pulls a driver’s visual, manual, and mental focus from the road where these resources are needed to drive safely. Though the study’s focus was on texting and driving dangers, researchers advise drivers to avoid driving when facing distracting emotions, such as anger.

One texting driver is a danger to all sharing the roads ”“ if you have been injured in an accident caused by texting and driving, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

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