Hands free devices can be distractive to NJ drivers

Although it is illegal to talk or text on hand-held cellphones in New Jersey, hands free devices are allowed and create cognitive distraction.

Although New Jersey has some of the strictest cellphone laws in the nation, motorists continue to drive while distracted. New Jersey motorists are prohibited from talking or texting on hand-held mobile devices while driving. However, only bus and novice drivers are banned from using hands free devices while behind the wheel. All other motorists are still able to use hands free cellphones and voice-activated technology without threat of legal recourse. New studies show that even while drivers are permitted to use these devices, they present a significant source of cognitive distraction. Due to these distractions, New Jersey motorists are at risk of being involved in distracted driver accidents.

Cognitive distraction

Cognitive distractions are activities that divert a motorist's attention away from the road ahead, according to Distraction.gov. Even though hands free cellular devices allow people to conduct a conversation while keeping their hands on the steering wheel and eyes on the road, the cellphones still remove the motorists' focus off of driving.

The National Safety Council explains how the brain cannot multitask, or successfully complete several tasks at the same time. Rather than concentrate on both tasks simultaneously, the brain bounces back and forth between the two activities. While drivers are focused on a conversation, their awareness for what is going on in their driving environment is reduced by approximately 50 percent. Cognitive distractions also decrease drivers' response time to hazards, inclement weather conditions, traffic signals and pedestrian crossings.

Voice-activated technology

Hands free cellphones are not the only source of cognitive distraction. A study released by AAA showed that voice-activated technology can also be distractive to motorists. Subjects in the study were asked to perform a serious of tasks, including changing the radio station, calling a contact and engaging in a conversation using voice-activated technology. Equipment in the vehicles measured the drivers' heart rates, and the subjects were asked to describe their level of distraction while driving.

The results indicated that as the voice-activated devices made more errors, the drivers' level of cognitive distraction increased. The study also found that many of the devices tested had flaws and were prone to errors in certain areas. Researchers believe that if technological improvements are made, the devices will be much safer for drivers to use.

The deadly facts

Nationwide, distracted driving car accidents injured 421,000 people and killed an additional 3,328 people in 2013, according to Distraction.gov. The New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety reported that more than 1,600 people were killed from 2003 to 2012 as a result of distracted drivers in New Jersey alone. Not only does this number include people who were talking on their cellphones, but it also accounts for drivers who were engaging in other distractive activities, such as applying makeup, eating, drinking, maintaining a conversation with other passengers, adjusting the radio and attending to children or pets.

When to contact an attorney

People may suffer from serious physical and emotional trauma after being involved in an auto collision in New Jersey. An established personal injury attorney may be helpful in walking these accident victims through the legal process. You have options when it comes to claiming compensation for your property damage, medical expenses, emotional suffering and lost wages from work.

Keywords: distracted, driving, texting, accident