Measuring Cognitive Distractions

In this landmark study of distracted driving, the AAA Foundation challenges the notion that drivers are safe and attentive as long as their eyes are on the road and their hands are on the wheel. Using cutting-edge methods for measuring brain activity and assessing indicators of driving performance, this research examines the mind of the driver, and highlights the mental distractions caused by a variety of tasks that may be performed behind the wheel.

By creating a first-of-its-kind rating scale of driver distractions, this study shows that certain activities – such as talking on a hands-free cell phone or interacting with a speech-to-text email system – place a high cognitive burden on drivers, thereby reducing the available mental resources that can be dedicated to driving. By demonstrating that mentally-distracted drivers miss visual cues, have slower reaction times, and even exhibit a sort of tunnel vision, this study provides some of the strongest evidence yet that “hands-free” doesn’t mean risk free.