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Conversations, cell phones both distracting to drivers

For some New York drivers, even having a conversation in the car might be a distraction. A meta-analysis that appeared in the journal Human Factors looked at experimental studies on driving and distraction but no epidemiological reports or surveys. The analysis examined more than 100 experimental situations using more than 4,000 drivers and came to several conclusions.

It found that both hands-free and hands-on cellphone use resulted in a diminished scanning of the environment and a slower reaction time and identification of hazards. However, conversing with others in the vehicle affected reaction time, speed, distance from other cars and lane position. The more engaging the conversation, the more likely it was for distraction to occur. Both cellphone and regular conversations led to more collisions.

Dialing is nearly as hazardous as texting, and drivers should be cautious about taking their eyes off the road. However, even when drivers watch the road, any type of conversation appears to be a significant factor in distraction and reducing situational awareness. Studies are mixed as to whether music is a distraction. Most states have already made texting and driving illegal while 15 have banned cellphone use and a few only ban these for drivers who are novices.

New York is one of those states that bans texting and handheld cellphone use. However, distracted driving is still a serious problem that can lead to car crashes that injure passengers and occupants of other vehicles. A motorist who causes such an accident, whether from cellphone use or for some other reason, may be legally liable for the medical expenses of the people injured. If the driver's insurance company does not offer enough in compensation, it might be necessary to file a lawsuit.

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