Texting and Driving and the Myth of Multitasking   Leave a comment

When I watch TV shows with my teenage boys, it drives me crazy that they are on their mobile phones, texting, Tweeting and Facebooking. We frequently have to back up the show when something funny or significant happens. Of course, when my wife and I suggest that they pay attention to the show, they strenuously argue, “I’m multitasking!”

Multitasking is the modern American way.  Friends and colleagues frequently claim to be multitasking, as if bragging about their high efficiency. But decades of research by neuroscientists has definitively established that multi-tasking is a myth. Our brains are not designed to pursue two or three tasks at the same time.  Our brains function best when doing a singular task.

driving cell phone

The best example of this is texting and driving.  You cannot give your full attention to the road in front of you and draft or read a text message.  Surprisingly, the same is true of merely talking on your cell phone while driving, even if you’re using a hands-free device or Bluetooth through your stereo system. In fact, research has shown that driving a car while on your cell phone is the equivalent of being intoxicated.   Sleights of Mind, What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals about our Everyday Deceptions, Macknik, Stephen L.; Martinez-Conde, Susana; Picador ISBN  978-0-312-61167-5, 2011, p.87. www.sleightsofmind.com.

Neuroscientists refer to this principle as inattentive blindness. “We have to be aware that there is a cost to the way that our society is changing, that humans are not built to work this way,” says Russ Poldrack, a brain scientists at UCLA.  “We’re really built to focus. And when we force ourselves to multitask, we’re driving ourselves to perhaps be less efficient in the long run even though it sometimes feels like we’re being more efficient.”  Id, pp. 87-88.

Psychologists at Western Washington University conducted a fascinating experiment regarding inattentive blindness.  They observed four categories of college students walking across the main campus square. One group was minding their own business and told to simply walk across the quad. A second group was walking in pairs and talking. A third group was listening to music on mobile devices. The fourth group was talking on cell phones. In each instance, a ridiculously costumed clown on a unicycle pedals in circles around the participants.

Which participants noticed the unicycling clown?  The students walking in pairs were most likely to notice the clown. The students listening to music on their mobile devices were only slightly less attentive. Half of the students talking on cell phones entirely miss the unicycling class. Half! The cellphone users also walked more slowly, weaving as they crossed the square.  Id., p. 86.

So if we are not going to notice a unicycling clown, we certainly are not going to notice the subtleties of the traffic patterns unfolding in front of us:  the driver slowly decelerating, the car in front of us drifting into our lane or the commercial vehicle unexpectedly making a left turn into our lane.

Inattentive blindness is probably a factor in the vast majority of car accidents in metropolitan Atlanta, Gwinnett County and in counties all across Georgia. Multi-tasking drivers must be held responsible for the injuries they cause with their carelessness.

It is vitally important to retain a competent attorney to represent you in collision cases whether they involved 18 wheelers, other commercial vehicles or Passenger vehicles.  Preserving and collecting the proof of cell phone usage in connection with car accidents is highly time sensitive.  Cell phone providers only maintain data for a limited period of time. This data must be preserved, and in order to do so, you must put the at-fault driver and their insurance company on notice.


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