Cognitive distraction: How cellphones can lead to collisions

Cognitive distraction occurs when motorists use their cellphones and it could lead to serious car accidents.

When motorists in Knoxville text or talk on their cellphones while behind the wheel, they may not know that they are putting their lives and the lives of other people on the road in danger. According to, 3,179 people lost their lives and an additional 431,000 were injured in distracted driving car accidents in 2014. Not only are cellphones manually and visually distracting to motorists, but they are a significant form of cognitive distraction. This reduced focus on the road can be deadly.

What is cognitive distraction?

Cognitive distraction occurs when drivers are performing a task that takes their mental focus and concentration off of the road. For example, a driver who is engaged in a conversation may be involved in the details of what the other person is saying. As a result, the motorist may be unintentionally unaware of what is going on in his or her driving environment. When people are cognitively distracted, they are less likely to respond to pedestrians, objects in the road, traffic signals, other reckless drivers or bad weather conditions.

According to the National Safety Council, this inability to fully focus on the road is referred to as inattention blindness, and it affects people who are talking on cellphones while driving. People who are mentally distracted are unable to process up to 50 percent of the information in their driving environment. Inattention blindness causes people to run red lights, speed through stop signs and disregard pedestrian crosswalks.

What are state cellphone laws?

Tennessee, like many other states in the nation, have laws that restrict certain drivers from using cellphones while driving. The state prohibits bus drivers and novice drivers from using both hands free and hand held cellphones at any time. Other drivers, however, are allowed to talk on any type of cellular device, but they are prohibited from texting. The Governors Highway Safety Association reported that 14 states in the nation ban motorists from talking on hand-held cellphones and 46 states prohibit drivers from texting.

Seeking legal counsel

Distracted motorists should be held accountable for their actions. When people choose to use their cellphones while driving, they run the risk of causing a catastrophic car accident. If you have been involved in an auto accident caused by a distracted or otherwise negligent motorist, you may be left with medical bills, injuries, property damage and the inability to return to work. You may want to speak to a personal injury attorney in Tennessee regarding your rights and legal options. You may be eligible for compensation that could help you during this difficult time.