February 28th marks the last day of the BC RCMP distracted driving awareness month and a new Canadian study – Brain activity during driving with distraction: an immersive fMRI study – has just released their results delving into the issue of cognitive distraction, particularly during left hand turns. Although a small study, it’s exciting to finally see a Canadian institution enter the research field particularly with respect to cognitive distraction.
Today, CTV published details of the study, ‘Hands-free isn’t Brain-Free, Distracted Driving Researchers Say.’ Not surprisingly the excuse filled comments are already rolling in trying to justify risky driving behavior. Yet again, the point regarding the increased risk and potential tragic consequences seems to be lost on those more focused on their perceived need to be productive while driving or worse yet, their ‘right’ to do what they want in THEIR vehicle. The main problem with the latter is that once a vehicle is off the driveway, driving distracted affects everyone on and around the road.
Our Drop It And Drive workshops have included the issue of cognitive distraction since we launched the program in 20120 and to date have had to base our information solely on US studies and research, e.g. David Strayer, University of Utah Applied Cognition Lab: and information from David Teater, Senior Director at the National Safety Council about the issue of cognitive distraction in relation to driving. This new study by researchers at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital gives us a home-grown resource to help our audience relate to this issue from a Canadian perspective.
If legislators, law enforcement and educators are having trouble getting people to drop their phones and other physical distractions…imagine the immense challenge in getting them to even understand the risk of cognitive distraction let alone unplug their Bluetooth devices.
Disracted driving involved three key areas of focus: visual, manual AND cognitive. Texting and driving involves all three which is why it’s one of the most dangerous distractions when driving. But, that shouldn’t negate the risks involved with each distraction individually.
What do you think? Will drivers get it or will it take having someone they love injured or killed because of distracted driving?