How long does your phone keep you distracted? Start counting …

When it comes to dangerous driving practices, there's no denying that many people are simply in denial. For example, some might attempt to justify speeding by claiming that they're only doing it to keep up with traffic, impaired driving by offering that they never consume more than they can handle, or driving distracted by arguing that "everyone else is doing it."

Regarding this latter driving behavior, there are some who take a slightly different approach. Indeed, recognizing the inherent danger of using a smartphone while behind the wheel, they instead choose to limit their phone use to those timeframes in which they technically aren't driving, such as when stopped in traffic or even at a red light. 

Perhaps not surprisingly, research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has found that the logic of this approach is flawed.

Specifically, the Foundation determined that using a smartphone for everything from phone calls and texts to emails and social media creates a sort of a hangover effect, such that the brain stays preoccupied for as long as 27 seconds.

What this means is that not only are those who freely use their smartphones while driving distracted for a lengthy period of time, but so too are those who put their phones aside after traffic starts moving or once the light turns green.

"A person gets in a zone where its 'inattention blindness' … where you're looking at the road but you're not seeing what's in front of you," said an official with AAA-New York. "We're talking about pedestrians, cyclists, other cars, red lights, stop signs, those sorts of things."

What makes all of this even more disconcerting is that statistics show that while the number of drivers who owned smartphones hovered around 52 percent back in 2011, it spiked all the way to 80 percent in 2014.

Given this reality -- and the fact that texting while driving is illegal here in Wisconsin -- motorists should do their best to keep their phones off or stowed well out of reach. Furthermore, if a phone call or other matter needs to be tended to, they should pull safely out of traffic and, once their business is completed, given themselves a bit of time to decompress.

If you've been seriously injured or lost a loved one in a crash caused by a distracted driver, always remember that you have options for seeking both justice and peace of mind. 

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