The Myth of Multitasking Leads to Distracted Driving Accidents

Abner Doubleday invented baseball. St. Patrick was Irish. Bats are blind. George Washington had wooden teeth. All of these common ideas are myths, widely-held beliefs that are actually false. And, according to the National Safety Council (NSC), here’s another: Motorists can use a cell phone while driving without affecting their abilities. Rather, the human brain cannot do two things at the same time, which is at least one reason why distracted driving resulted in over 53,500 crashes in 2014 just in Kentucky alone. When the brain is engaged in two thinking tasks, such as driving and talking on the phone, reaction time is slowed when it has to switch between them. Using a phone hands-free is not any safer. Any talking on the phone can cause drivers to miss up to 50 percent of their surroundings, which can mean not seeing stop lights, stop signs, construction zones, pedestrians, bicyclists, changes in speed limit, or animals. According to researcher David Strayer, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Utah, “Driving and mental imagery both use the same part of the brain. So the imagery will block out the driving environment. People literally won’t see what they’re looking at.” While talking with a passenger does take some brain power, it is less intrusive than talking on a phone where the other person cannot see the driving conditions. A passenger is likely to lighten conversation if the weather turns bad or there are police lights in the distance, but a caller may not even realize the other person is driving, let alone stay away from complex or emotional topics. Even voice-to-text use can be very distracting, combining the mental disruption with the visual one that inevitably gets caught up in correcting autocorrect errors. Some drivers think that mobile phone use only at red lights is acceptable. However, this diversion of attention can still cause problems, at least one study reporting that people are distracted for as long as 27 seconds AFTER they use voice commands. Human behavior is hard to change, and many of us think we can do things better than others can. Operating from this perspective, a 2013 study examined the relationship between people’s views about their own multi-tasking ability and the likelihood of their using a cell phone behind the wheel. The study found that people who thought they were good at multi-tasking were actually the worst of those analyzed, yet they were also the ones most likely to use their cell phones when driving. Interestingly, those people also had the highest scores on the study’s questions that measured impulsivity and thrill-seeking. The next time you take your eyes off the road in front of you, your hands off the wheel, or your mind off of driving, consider whether it’s really worth hurting yourself or someone else. And if you or someone you love has been injured by someone who took that chance, you need an attorney with experience to effectively represent your interests. At the Johnson Law Firm, we have been helping people for over 15 years, and we can help you. Based in Pikeville, KY, we proudly serve communities throughout the Bluegrass State. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, contact us by calling 606-437-4488 or filling out our online form.

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