New facts about interrupted road awareness

You reach down to adjust the dial on your car radio. It only takes two seconds, so you say it is no big deal and perfectly safe.

New research from Liberty Mutual's Research Institute for Safety, however, indicates that may be an incorrect assumption. It has been understood that even minor distractions while driving increase crash risk, but the reasons have been elusive. The study sought to provide further insight on the dangers behind distracted driving

Currently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends that in-vehicle glances be restricted to no more than two seconds. Unfortunately, if you do something minor, such as turning the radio knob, which ostensibly may only take two seconds, the risk period may be longer than you realize.

The Liberty study demonstrated that driver's road awareness is interrupted for more than just two seconds. There is an additional readjustment period as the driver returns to focusing on the road that impacts the ability to concentrate on the road and properly assess new hazards. Increasing the danger was drivers' lack of awareness of their poor hazard identification.

As one of the investigators points out, " The fact that drivers consistently missed critical information but were unaware of having missed it suggests that they would be likely to continue unsafe behaviors. We need to find ways to illustrate to drivers just how much in-vehicle distractions can impair their driving performance."