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Multitasking to Death: Distracted Driving in Wisconsin

April is National Distracted Driving Month. Did you know that drivers who are using a cell phone are four times more likely to crash than a driver who is not distracted? This is true whether the cell phone is handheld or hands-free.

Here are some more facts that you may not know about distracted driving:

  • One in every four accidents involves a distracted driver. Twenty-one percent of accidents involve a driver who is talking on a phone.
  • Two out of every three drivers surveyed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety admitted to using a cell phone while driving in the 30 days before the survey.
  • One-third of the drivers said they regularly talked on the phone while driving.

Most of us believe we are good at multitasking. However, our brain is not designed to multitask. Driving, talking on the phone, texting, and programming a GPS are activities that use many parts of the brain. Instead of performing tasks simultaneously, the brain rapidly switches from task to task. This happens whether you are talking on the phone or talking to a passenger. So, why is talking on the phone more dangerous?

When you talk to a passenger, the passenger knows you are driving. She is happy to put the conversation on hold as you navigate through a construction area or watch for traffic at an intersection. In fact, adult passengers naturally adjust conversations based on traffic. The person at the other end of the cell phone conversation doesn’t do this. He may choose to break exciting news just as you reach that construction zone.

In addition, drivers who use a cell phone suffer from a phenomenon called “inattention blindness.” While these drivers see what is going on around them, their brain is fluctuating between processing images and processing conversation. Up to 50 percent of the images they see don’t reach the brain. This slows down reaction time.

It is legal for adults to talk on the phone while driving in Wisconsin, as long as it doesn’t interfere with driving. But, as we have seen, phone conversations inherently make driving less safe. Show your commitment to National Distracted Driving Month by pledging not to use your phone or other device when you are behind the wheel.

Know someone who uses the phone while driving? Share this article. You could save a life.

Jason F. Abraham
Managing Partner, Hupy and Abraham