State leaders: Distracted driving a factor in more deaths (Marietta Daily Journal)


Today's technology creates more distractions for drivers, according to Kennesaw State expert

KENNESAW, Ga. (Mar 4, 2017) — The number of drivers and passengers killed on Georgia’s roads has increased in recent years, and several leaders in Cobb and the state say fueling the big increase is a small thing in almost every driver’s vehicle — their cellphone.

“When you look at the numbers, we saw a big increase in the number of crashes that are symptomatic of distraction — lane departure, crossing the center line, striking an object. A lot of rear-end crashes,” said Governor’s Office of Highway Safety Director Harris Blackwood, who attributes the statewide increase to distracted driving.

Adriane Randolph is executive director of the BrainLab at Kennesaw State University’s Coles College of Business. Among her areas of study are human-computer interaction and neuro-information systems.

While any number of actions while driving could cause a distraction, Randolph says the technology of today’s phones bring with it the greater likelihood of using brain processes needed for safe driving. For instance, most people who use their phones to text now do so on non-tactile keyboards, or touchscreens, versus the actual buttons found on devices such as a Blackberry or the flip-phones of yesteryear. With that touchscreen, she says, most users have to look at the screen to type.

And while some may argue that drivers have always had the distraction of the car radio, Randolph said it doesn’t detract as much as the technological newcomer.

“Listening to music, that’s a different part of your brain being involved than monitoring the road and maybe bobbing your hands on the wheel (but still) being ready to respond, but if you are fidgeting with your gadget, you’re taking up motor processes with your hands being on the device instead of just on the wheel, your visual attention is diverted from monitoring what’s happening on the road,” she said. “It’s diverting resources in the brain that would normally be for safe driving.”

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