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Distracted driving said to have same effect as hangover

Drivers may experience a so-called "hangover effect," where their brain remains distracted for up to 27 seconds after talking or texting, according to a study prepared by the AAA Foundation for Traffic & Safety. Accordingly, distracted driving is joining other reckless conduct like drunk driving and speeding as the cause of many traffic accident deaths and injuries.

This hangover effect has previously unforeseen consequences. Text messaging, making phone calls or updating social media while parked or at a stop light still impedes the driver's concentration after the car begins moving again. This often causes inattention blindness, where a distracted driver is looking at the road but is still not seeing pedestrians, other vehicles, cyclists, traffic lights, stop signs or anything else in front of them.

Only 14 states and the District of Columbia currently ban drivers from talking on a hand-held cell phone. The law of North Carolina is somewhat liberal because it bans texting for all drivers but only prohibits cell phone use by bus drivers and drivers under 18.

AAA has asked technology and vehicle manufacturers to develop systems that would shut off these voice-to-text and cell phone systems while the vehicle is moving. However, some manufacturers have claimed that their voice activated technologies help lessen this danger.

AAA studied the distraction level of ten 2015 vehicle voice-activated systems. It found that the Mazda 6 had the highest distraction rate. It determined that the 2015 Chevy Equinox and Buick Lacrosse had a mild distraction level.

A San Francisco start-up company, Navdy, has developed display technology that somewhat mitigates this danger by keeping drivers looking at the road. Hand-held device information such as navigation, emails and text messages would be displayed on a small screen in front of the driver.

Last year was the deadliest year for driving in a decade with 40,200 fatalities, and distracted driving may eventually cause this number to grow. The number of drivers who own a smartphone grew from 52 percent in 2011 to 80 percent in 2014.

If a person is involved in an accident with a distracted driver, a lawyer may assist the victim to seek compensation for losses caused in these accidents. An attorney can help assure that rights are protected in settlement negotiations and court trials.

Source: CNBC, "Driving while distracted comes with a 'hangover' effect, AAA says," Erin Barry, March 12, 2017

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