Medscape recently reported on the disturbing new research related to smartphones and cognitive capacity. According to research conducted out of the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas, Austin, the mere presence of a smartphone adversely affects available cognitive capacity. Researchers conducted two studies, which involved nearly 800 undergraduate students. They studied available cognitive capacity of the students when smartphones were placed nearby and in sight, nearby and out of sight and in another room. They found that just having a smartphone present could adversely impact available cognitive capacity.
Smartphone Presence and Cognitive Capacity
Even when participants were able to sustain attention to their tasks and while not actively using their phones, their cognitive capacity was still negatively impacted. The participants were even adversely affected by smartphone presence even though they reported not thinking about the phone. The impact to cognitive capacity was most greatly measured in those who reported stronger smartphone dependence. During the study, the participants were not distracted by calls or texts chirping. Their cognitive capacity was diminished simply due to the presence of the phone.
Implications for Smartphones in Vehicles
This study presents some serious implications for what we currently know about the dangers associated with distracted driving. The distracted driving epidemic claimed 3,477 lives in 2015 alone. An additional 391,000 people were injured in distracted driving crashes in 2015. It may not be enough to just abstain from talking and texting while driving. Drivers need to be running at their highest level of cognitive capacity when they’re behind the wheel. If the mere presence of a smartphone can reduce cognitive capacity, we need to think about how motorists can limit and put a stop to the risks associated with smartphones in the car.
Improving Safety on California Roads
While many people have long suspected that the mere presence of a smartphone can be distracting, we now know that cognitive capacity is reduced, even if you’re not talking or texting on a smartphone, if it is in your immediate area. Short term solutions to improving safety on California roads could include turning the phone off, placing it on silent or putting it in your backseat or trunk before getting behind the wheel.
Alexander Law Group, LLP is always ready to answer questions and share the results of our research and experience with the public. Our goal is to make a difference for our clients and our community.