Study casts doubt on effectiveness of distracted driving laws

The Georgia General Assembly passed a distracted driving bill on March 29 that bans the use of cellphones by drivers. Hands-free devices are still permitted under House Bill 673, but the results of a study conducted by researchers at the University of Texas suggests that devices designed to allow drivers to keep their hands on the wheel may be just as dangerous as standard cellphones.

The researchers came to this conclusion after observing how sending and receiving text messages affected the driving of 20 student volunteers. The students were provided with a standard cellphone and a Google Glass device and placed in a realistic driving simulator. Google scrapped the wearable device in 2015 after receiving pushback over privacy issues, but the researchers chose to use one of the devices anyway because it can be controlled by voice commands.

This means that Google Glass allows drivers to read text messages while keeping both their hands and their eyes focused on driving, but the research team found that these features provided virtually no safety benefit. The researchers discovered that hands-free devices made the students more confident and more likely to read and reply to text messages, which all but wiped out the safety benefit the hands-free feature provided.

Government crash statistics reveal that traffic accidents caused by distracted drivers kill nine people every day in the United States, and many more are left catastrophically injured. When police reports indicate that no emergency action was taken prior to the accidents that injured their clients, experienced personal injury attorneys may check cellphone records and social media activity to determine whether or not distraction could have played a role.

Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Georgia just passed distracted driving bill: What's legal, what's not?", David Wickert, March 30, 2018

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