Keep Your Eyes On the Road

June 18, 2013

There is a major disconnect between your eyes and your brain when a person is driving but on the phone. Be it the person is answering a phone call, imputing and address into a GPS or even using a voice-activated application to send text messages or chat. This is called a cognitive distraction, that most drivers are not aware is taking place.

A two-year study conducted by the University of Utah and sponsored by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety determined that technology developed to enhance the safety of text messaging while driving is not very effective. The study found that interacting with the speech-to-text system was the most cognitive distraction to drivers on the road, when compared to other forms of distracted driving. Therefore; the voice-based systems intended to keep drivers more safe and less distracted from driving is doing the opposite.

When the study was conducted, over a two year period, driving simulators and on-road testing was done. Test subjects wore a helmet of electrode wires to test how the brain reacts to distractions that arise for drivers and their ability to stay focused on the road. Each distraction caused a change in the brain and these changes were marked through graphs on a computer. The data showed, that the more complicated and absorbing a task, the greater the distraction, to the driver on the road. The longer it took for a driver to complete a conversation, send a message, or set a destination on a GPS, the worse the distraction was on the driver, as graphed by the computer.

Another problem that the study determined was something called “inattention blindness”. Inattention blindness is when a person sees something but doesn’t register it. It means that when distracted, it takes a driver longer to connect what he or she sees to an appropriate reaction while driving. This means that, it takes a driver, longer to break or swerve to safety.

In 2011, federal data showed that distracted driving was a factor in about 10 percent of the fatal accidents reported, nationwide that year. Nationally, it was also reported, in 2011, that 387,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver.

In other words, anything that distracts a driver from the task of safe driving creates a risk. 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of close calls came about after a driver took their eyes off the road.

Sending and receiving text messages topped the list of driver distractions. Therefore; texting while driving, has been banned in 41 states, including Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. In addition, the District and 11 states, which include Maryland but not Virginia, have also prohibited the use of hand-held cell phones.

In conclusion, it was determined that as distractions increase reaction time slows down, brain function is compromised and drivers scan the road less and miss visual cues more. Minor tasks; such as listening to the radio, are considered minimal risks, while responding to voice activated email features, that are built into vehicles, ranked as the highest distraction.

Too Many CT Scans Performed on Children in the U.S.

June 12, 2013

JAMA Pediatrics is the oldest continuously published pediatric journal in the United States, which publishes peer-reviewed journals for physicians and other children and adolescent health care professionals, whom published a study on June 10, 2013 in regards to children in the United States getting too many CT scans which could result in high risk for cancer later in adulthood.

CT scans are high powered x-rays that expose patients to radiation measuring the equivalent to 100 to 500 chest x-rays. The radiation dose from one CT scan can range from a few millisieverts to 20 millisieverts.

The researchers involved reviewed data from seven different U.S. Healthcare systems between 1996 through 20120. The researchers evaluated a total of 744 computed tomography (CT) scans performed on children younger than 15 years of age between 2001 and 2011. The team of researchers found that the use of CT scans doubled for children under five and tripled for children between five and 14 years of age between 1996 and 2005. The rates stayed the same during 2006 and 2007, and finally began to decline in 2008 to 2011.

The research found cancer rates were much higher among girls who received CT scans of the abdomen and pelvis. One girl would develop radiation induced cancer for every 300 to 390 abdomen or pelvic CT scans conducted, 330 to 480 chest scans or 270 to 800 spine scans. These numbers depended on the girl’s age.

The research indicated that the CT scan attributed cancer risk was higher for younger patients and girls that for older patients and boys. The risk of Leukemia was the highest for children under five years of age who received head scans. That means that about 2 cases of Leukemia developed for every 10,000 scans.

4,870 cases of future cancer would develop nationally for every 4 million pediatric CT scans conducted annually.

Researchers noted that by reducing the highest 25% of doses to a median dose would prevent about 43% of future cancers. Lower dose scans or no scan at all is often possible depending on the medical situation. Parents are urged to ask doctors if the CT scan is medically necessary or if any other form or testing or scan can be done that would reveal similar results as a CT scan.