Written by Connie Hogue, Director of Human Resources and Safety
When it comes to distracted driving concerns, cell phones are at the top of the list. We have all seen a driver distracted by a cell phone. However, when that person using the phone while driving is us it’s more difficult to notice the risk you are taking.
Multitasking is a Myth
Driving and cell phone conversations both require a great deal of thought. When doing them at the same time, your brain is unable to do either well. For example, it’s nearly impossible to read a book and have a phone conversation. While driving, distraction often results in crashes due to delayed response times and missing traffic signals.
Multitasking is a myth. Human brains do not perform two tasks at the same time. Instead, the brain handles tasks sequentially, switching between one task and another. Brains can juggle tasks very rapidly, which leads us to erroneously believe we are doing two tasks at the same time. In reality, the brain is switching attention between tasks – performing only one task at a time. The brain not only juggles tasks, it also juggles focus and attention. When people attempt to perform two cognitively complex tasks such as driving and talking on a phone, the brain shifts its focus and people develop “inattention blindness”. When this happens, important information falls out of view and is not processed by the brain. For example, drivers may not see a red light. Because this is a process people are not aware of, it’s virtually impossible for people to realize they are mentally taking on too much.