male teen texting and drivingCognitive function is also known as attention, and a distraction is anything that draws the focus away from the task at hand. It usually occurs because an individual is attempting to do more than one thing at a time. This is known as multi-tasking and is often considered a skill in some settings. However, when a person is driving and attempting to perform another activity simultaneously, the results can be deadly.

According to Illinois Tollway, cognitive distraction was a factor in nearly 6,000 car accidents between 2008 and 2012, and thirty of these crashes were fatal. In 2012 alone, more than 1,200 crashes were caused by cell phone distractions.

Any driver distraction can cause a car crash

According to, anything that takes the mind away from the task of driving is considered a distraction. Examples of common mental diversions include the following:

  • Eating or drinking
  • Talking to a passenger
  • Putting on makeup
  • Reading a map
  • Using a handheld device

Texting while driving is one of the most dangerous mental distractions. The driver’s full attention is pulled away from the road, and at least one hand is often removed from the wheel. The average text message takes focus away from the task of driving for five seconds. At highway speeds, this equates to driving the length of a football field blindfolded. According to the United States Department of Transportation, the risk of a car accident increases by 23 percent when a driver is texting, and a driver using a hand-held phone is four times more likely to cause an injury crash.

Planning ahead can reduce the potential for distractions

Many distractions can be avoided by removing possible causes before beginning a trip. A driver should review directions or put them into a navigation device, adjust the temperature, seat and steering wheel, and make sure that all passengers are securely buckled into their seats. If a child or a pet requires attention, the driver should pull over before attempting to deal with the issue.

To discourage distracted driving, many states, including Illinois, have made talking on a handheld device illegal. While this includes holding a cell phone during a conversation, it does not include conversations using a Bluetooth or other hands-free device. Drivers are encouraged to pull over before making or answering calls or texts, but the best way to avoid accidents is to turn off the device and put it out of reach before starting the vehicle.

An individual who sustains an injury due to a crash caused by a distracted driver should contact an Illinois personal injury attorney for legal advice on all the resources available under the law.

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