ELLENBURG CENTER — A Cadyville man was checking his email while driving when he plowed into a herd of cows, ultimately killing five of the animals.
The incident reinforced the dangers of distracted driving, a growing cause of accidents and concern around the nation. Studies indicate that even the use of hands-free head sets while driving is dangerous.
New York State Police reported that Kyle D. Mattoon, 33, was driving his 2010 Dodge Caravan on the Star Road near the intersection of Bohon Road and reading an email on his Blackberry.
Keith Brior, a local farmer who lives at 7942 Star Road, was steering a herd of roughly 200 dairy cows across the intersection.
Brior saw Mattoon’s car heading toward the animals and waved his arms to get the driver’s attention.
Mattoon was unable to stop in time and struck multiple cows.
The men were unharmed, but five of the cows had to be put down, and nearly a dozen more were injured in the incident and its aftermath.
Police issued Mattoon a ticket for using his cell phone while driving.
Cell phone distractions cause thousands of traffic deaths each year and hundreds of thousands of injuries. Motor vehicle accidents killed nearly 33,000 people in 2010 and are among the top three causes of injury or death, according to the National Highway Transportation Administration. About 3.5 million people suffer serious injuries in car crashes every year. It is estimated by the National Safety Council that 24 percent of all motor vehicle crashes involve cell phone use.
Several studies have found that driving proficiency is negatively impacted by cell phone use, regardless of whether the phone used is a hand-held or hands-free device.
Experts say distractions can be manual, visual or cognitive. Specifically, anything that takes a driver’s hands off of the wheel, eyes off of the road or mind off of driving negatively impacts driving ability.
Text messaging involves all of the above, though experts say it is also dangerous when drivers take their minds off the task of driving, as research shows human brains do not perform two tasks simultaneously, according to the National Safety Council.
Studies released by that group describe the brain as handling tasks sequentially and switching between one task and another.
The brain juggles tasks rapidly, leading people to believe they are performing two tasks at once.
When the brain processes information, it screens out information to deal with sensory overload.
When a driver’s brain is overloaded by talking on the phone while driving, the individual may not, for example, see a red light.
Experts say it is nearly impossible for people to realize that they are taking on too many tasks for their mental capacities.