The Myth of Multitasking While Driving: You Can’t Do It

So you think you can multitask while you’re driving? Trust us, it’s a BIG FAT MYTH! 

Actually, it’s several myths, which we’re gonna bust wide open. We’re sure your parents have already warned you about the dangers of distracted driving and, trust us, mother really does know best in this case. 

Multitasking while you're driving is a myth.
Seriously, we should be on Mythbusters.

But first, let’s let Ace test you:

 

Not so easy to spot that purple suitcase, right?

Sure, talking and chewing gum at the same time IS easy. For one thing, you’re putting a thinking task (also called a cognitive task) with a non-thinking task. But talking and driving are both thinking tasks … it’s impossible for your brain to fully focus on both at the same time. One of these suffers, often with deadly consequences. Multitasking behind the wheel- not cool. We get it. Sometimes we overestimate our own abilities. But trying to multitask while driving is dangerous no matter how coordinated you think you are. 

Driving researchers have completed lots of studies on this topic using both straight surveying techniques and naturalistic driving samples that view people over time to determine the level of distractions drivers face. He’s some of the information they found out about distracted driving and transportation. 

We have an unhealthy obsession with our cell phones, fam.

Using cell phones and texting while driving is one of the most common distractions you’ll see in the 21st century. According to a 2010 National Safety Council estimate, distracted drivers talking or texting while driving are four times more likely to be involved in car crashes and are involved in 21 percent of all crashes in the United States. Just dialing a number takes as much of our attention off the road as talking or listening. Imagine how distracted you are when you’re texting out an entire message to someone. The National Safety Council isn’t conducting these studies for no reason, they want to decrease the number of crashes and increase driver safety. Let’s help them with that cause, shall we? 

Don't talk on the phone and drive. No means no.
Don’t talk on the phone and drive. No means no.

A 2012 driving study survey by the AAA Foundation of Traffic Safety reports that in the 30 days prior to that post, two out of three drivers admit having talked on their cell phones while driving at least once. It’s four years later now: Ya think that stat might have gone up a bit? This one’s even worse: one in three drivers actually admit to doing this “fairly often” or “regularly.” Go figure.

One myth is that hands-free cell phones are safer.

According to a recent Carnegie Mellon University study, a phenomenon called “inattention blindness” sets in when you’re listening, which blocks the same area in your brain that’s used for processing the movement of visual images – something that’s absolutely essential in order for you to drive safely.

We just got one brain, not two. And it needs to focus on the road.
We just got one brain, not two. And it needs to focus on the road.

As a new driver, you need all the brainpower you have.

Later on, with more experience, your brain will re-wire itself to do some stuff automatically, like:

  1. See a light turning red
  2. Foot hits the brake

In a 2008 NPR (National Public Radio) broadcast, Jon Hamilton talks about how multitasking teens might be muddling their brains. “Multitasking,” he says, “causes a kind of brownout in the brain … ALL the lights go dim because there just isn’t enough power to go around.”

Multitasking: Fun when you're patting your head and rubbing your tummy, not when you're driving.
Multitasking: Fun when you’re patting your head and rubbing your tummy. Not fun when you’re driving.

He also says saying “no” to distractions depends in part on being able to control your impulses, which is something that’s not fully developed in a teenager’s brain. So when you’re driving, and you get a text message alert, your brain finds it hard to ignore and creates an impulse to start texting while driving. 

Best bet is to turn your phone OFF before you turn that ignition switch ON. 

You want to argue that talking on a cell phone is just as distracting as talking to someone riding along with you? That’s also a myth.

On a cell phone there’s only one of you watching the road; your passenger buddy is your extra set of eyes and ears. Duh.

Here’s one last myth we want to bust for ya.

Drivers on cell phones still have quicker reaction times than those who’ve been drinking.

NOT!

The University of Utah did a study that proved that cell phone users actually had slower reaction times than drivers with a .08 BAC, the legal intoxication limit. Yeah, you read that correctly. Using cell phones while driving can make your reaction time slower than that of drivers under the influence of alcohol. That said, it’s still SUPER dangerous to drink and drive too. So avoid both of these activities to avoid vehicle crashes. 

Slower than a sloth
Slower than a sloth

Like Ace says: Minimize distractions and bad driving habits! Be safe out there.