You might not be as good a multitask-er as you think...
August 15, 2012
Distracted driving is a hot-button topic this summer, especially since Arbella brought their Distractology 101 trailer to our Bourne location in June. I looked down upon texting and driving, although I did so myself when I first began driving, I have become increasingly more aware of the dangers of multitasking on the road. I can tell when drivers around me are more focused on their iPhones than the road ahead, even when they think they are being sneaky. Sometimes I wish I could roll down my window and yell, “Get off the phone!”, but I don’t know how effective that would be.
I was perusing “Insurance Journal”, an insurance industry news site that I frequent, and I found an article about a multitasking study that 32 college students had recently undergone. During the study, researchers conducted a baseline visual test that involved matching numbered grids. Subjects were then asked to give an automated “college student” walking directions to a nearby location. Half of the subjects were instructed to use instant messaging and half were to use chat services. The researchers used eye-tracking technology to judge how frequently subjects’ eyes were moving to and from their tasks. Researchers found that when subjects were given two visual tasks, their grid matching performance suffered by 50%. When subjects were asked to perform an audio and a visual task, their performance only worsened by 30%. These results can be translated directly to driving!
Following the study, subjects were asked to rate their multitasking performance and those who performed two visual tasks were more confident than those who performed a visual and audio task. This may be why people think that they can safely text and drive, without harsh repercussions. Little do they know, their driving performance can be reduced by 50%, even if they take their eyes off the road for a second.
Let’s do a little math to put this statistic in perspective. If you’re traveling down the highway at 70 mph, considering nobody goes the speed limit, it should take you approximately 315 feet to come to a complete stop. That is 69 feet in thinking distance, the time it takes you to register to stop, and 246 feet in actual braking distance. If you were texting at that time, it would take you 50% longer to avoid someone stopping short ahead of you. At that rate, you would come to a final stop at 473 feet. If the car ahead of you comes to a stop at 315 feet, and the absolute minimum distance you can stop in is 473 feet, collision is imminent. Fact and common sense say you shouldn't be texting and driving (or email, facebook, etc), no matter the circumstance.
Moral of the story: Keep your eyes on the road. Please, if not for your safety, do it for the safety of others (including me!). The last thing you want is to be a statistic. Another flipped car, another injury, and another death because you put a text message at a higher priority than your safety. The world isn’t going to end if you don’t answer that text or email. It can wait!
I’ve posted this before, and I’m posting it again: AT&T’s short documentary on texting and driving. The messages and stories are so powerful. If my blog post can’t deter you from texting and driving, maybe this will.