Cognitive distractions pose a significant threat to Maryland motorists

For a growing number of Maryland residents and Americans across the country, smartphones are no longer a luxury but a necessity. The Pew Research Internet Project states that as of 2013, 56 percent of adults in the United States own smartphones and 91 percent of adults own a cellphone of some kind. Although cellphones can be advantageous to many people, they have proven to be deadly when people use them while driving.

In an attempt to decrease the number of people injured and killed in distracted driving car crashes in Maryland, state officials have banned texting and driving for all motorists. However, credible studies show that the dangers of cognitive distraction may be extremely dangerous as well.

Fatality facts

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than nine Americans are killed each day and another 1,153 people are injured in distracted driving car accidents. The Maryland Strategic Highway Safety Plan's Toward Zero Deaths Program reports that there were 52,145 auto accidents caused by distracted drivers in 2012, accounting for over 58 percent of all motor vehicle accidents in Maryland. These accidents took the lives of 246 people and injured 28,517 more.

A closer look at distractions

The CDC classifies distractions into three main types, including visual, manual and cognitive distractions. A visual distraction, such as dialing on a cellphone, requires a driver to remove his or her eyes from the road, while a manual distraction, including reaching for a cellphone, involves a driver taking his or her hands off of the steering wheel. Cognitive distractions occur when a driver removes his or her mental focus from the task of driving. All of these distractive behaviors present a significant danger to motorists on the road.

The dangers of cognitive distraction

A report issued by the National Safety Council tells the story of a 12-year-old boy who was killed by a distracted driver talking on her cellphone. Witnesses say that the 20-year-old woman ran a red light while looking straight ahead. She never touched her brakes as she struck a vehicle while going 48 miles per hour.

Cognitive distraction causes a phenomenon referred to as inattention blindness, where drivers are unable to see up to 50 percent of their driving environment while engaging in conversation on a hand-held or hands free cellphone. This makes it incredibly difficult for drivers to respond to unexpected situations and identify potential hazards on the road.

The NSC explains that inattention blindness is a direct result of the human brain's inability to process two complex tasks, such as driving and carrying on a conversation, at once. The brain constantly switches between the two tasks, leaving gaps in alertness and increasing the likelihood that a distracted driving car accident will occur.

When to contact an attorney

Proof of driver distraction can be difficult when not witnessed. A lawyer, however, has a variety of tools and methods for collecting the evidence needed to make a distracted driving claim.

Distracted driving car accidents can change the lives of people who are seriously injured and the families of those who are killed due to the negligence of another driver. A personal injury attorney can help those who suffer emotional and physical trauma as a result of a devastating auto accident.