L8 – Multi-tasking & driver distraction

Multitasking is something we have long been encouraged to do. However, it turns out that it is impossible with demanding tasks, like driving.

When we think that we are multi-tasking, we are actually switching back and forth between competing tasks. Our brains do this so fast that we are not conscious of it.

The problem with multitasking is that we are splitting our brain power between tasks. When the brain attends to two things – like driving and texting – we are giving less attention to each task and performing worse on both of them.

According to the book Brain Rules, multitasking means our “error rate goes up 50%, and it takes [longer] to do things.”

David Teater of the US National Safety Council talks about Distracted Driving

Not long ago, a young woman drove through a red light while distracted on her mobile phone. Her vehicle slammed into another vehicle crossing directly in front of her. The vehicle she hit was not the first or fourth. A police crash investigation determined she never touched her brakes and was travelling at 48mph (77kph) when she hit the other vehicle.

The crash killed a 12-year-old boy.

Witnesses told investigators that the driver was not looking down. She was neither dialling the phone nor texting. She was observed looking straight out of the windscreen talking on her phone as she sped past four cars and a stationary school bus.

Why do you think she crashed?

Researchers called this crash a classic case of “inattention blindness”, which occurs when we are distracted in conversation. Drivers talking on the phone may look but they simply fail to see stuff. Estimates indicate that drivers using the phone fail to see up to 50% of what is occurring in the driving environment. Fifty percent!

Remember David Teater who was speaking in the video? It was Teater’s 12-year-old son, Joseph, who was killed by the distracted driver described above.

Our brainpower is limited. Imagine we have £10 worth of brainpower to invest in driving safely. If we choose to waste £5 engaged in a phone conversation, then we have just £5 left to invest in our safety and that of those around us.

One text or call would wreck it all for our family, friends and community.

Is it worth it?