You may know about the dangers of distracted driving, but did you know a driver does not have to be visually or manually distracted to cause a related car accident? Cognitive distractions can be enough to impair the driver’s ability to make sound judgments and react to changing roadway situations. Driving while angry, sad, stressed, excited or even happy could reduce reaction times and contribute to collisions. One of the most common cognitive distractions that cause car accidents in California is stress.
How Does Stress Affect the Body?
Stress has to do with the inherent flight or fight reaction everyone experiences under pressure. The body and mind may struggle when deciding whether to flee or face the issue at hand. Stress is the body’s way of coping with difficult or nerve-wracking events. Stress can have both mental and physical effects on a driver. You could experience short-term stress or chronic stress. Both can interfere with driving abilities. Even minor, short-term cognitive stress can have a noticeable impact on the body.
- Tense muscles
- Increased heart rate
- Quickened pulse
- Increased brain activity
- Shallow breathing
The body’s reaction to stress could make it difficult to concentrate on tasks related to driving, such as reading roadway signs, stopping, obeying the speed limit and yielding the right-of-way. Severe stress or anxiety could cause episodes such as panic attacks or hyperventilation. Trying to drive safely in these situations may be impossible. Chronic or long-term stress can negatively affect the immune system, cardiovascular system, digestive system, memory, attention span and ability to sleep. Chronic stress could ultimately make a driver unfit to operate a vehicle.
Cognitive Distractions and Motor Vehicle Accidents
In 2017, distracted drivers took at least 3,166 lives throughout the U.S, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Although cellphone use is the main cause of driver distraction, many other things (tangible and intangible) could cause a distracted driving accident. Manual, visual and cognitive are the three types of distracted driving. Cellphones are so dangerous because they distract drivers in all three ways. Even cognitive distractions alone, however, could cause collisions.
- Worrying about money
- Thinking about a recent fight
- Struggling with a difficult decision
- Dealing with nerves before an interview
- Reacting to trouble within a relationship
It takes 100% of a driver’s attention to safely and properly operate a motor vehicle. Too many drivers overestimate their abilities to drive safely while not thinking about the task at hand. Contemplating your job, chores, homework, relationships or other mentally taxing matters while driving could reduce the ability to safely react to hazards. Stress about work, for example, may cause you to zone out and fail to notice a light turning red. This could lead to running the light and causing a serious car accident.
How To Prevent Mental Distractions While Driving
Keeping your mind on the driving task 100% of the time can be difficult…especially on long car trips or if you experience an unusual amount of stress. It is crucial, however, to keep your mind focused only on driving while behind the wheel. Even a few seconds of distracted driving could be enough time for an accident to happen. Preventing stress-related cognitive distractions is one of your responsibilities as a driver.
- Practice self-awareness
- Learn your triggers
- Engage in deep breathing exercises
- Learn relaxing techniques
- Get enough sleep
- Exercise regularly
- Get professional emotional support
If you fail to take reasonable care in preventing stress or other cognitive distractions, you could be responsible for any related car accidents you cause. Although cognitive distractions are difficult to prove, the victim may be able to hold you liable for making a driving mistake that caused the collision. Distracted driving of any kind could lead to mistakes such as speeding, drifting in and out of lanes, unsafe merging, ignoring the right-of-way and red-light running. Keeping your mind on the driving task could save lives.
Contact our Chula Vista car accident attorneys today.