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How conversation can distract drivers

Drivers in California may not be aware of the state's laws regarding cell phone use; for example, it prohibits all drivers from texting and has a ban on cellphone use for school bus drivers and for drivers under 18. The reason is that using cellphones while driving is a form of distracted driving. A recent analysis shows that any conversation can take drivers' attention away from the road.

The meta-analysis was published in the journal Human Factors and focused on experimental studies of how drivers performed in traffic situations while talking. It found that cellphone conversations significantly impact a driver's ability to scan the environment, such as looking left and right and glancing at the rearview mirror to identify hazards. Reaction times also slowed down. Drivers failed to maintain their lane, slow down when appropriate and give the cars ahead of them plenty of distance.

The more engaging a conversation was, the more it impaired a driver's awareness of the environment. While there are other ways to become distracted, such as daydreaming, cellphone use is still shown to have the most impact on driving. Dialing the phone, which takes the eyes off the road, is another bad idea, and hands-free phone use also reduces drivers' attention.

Distracted driving is a form of negligence, so when this leads to a car accident, the victim may have the grounds to file a third-party insurance claim. The liable party's auto insurance company might do everything possible to deny payment, which is why the victim may want to hire a lawyer before moving forward. Accident attorneys might bring in investigators to bolster the case and negotiate for a fair settlement that covers medical expenses, vehicle damage and other losses, litigating only if necessary.

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