Distracted driving is a huge problem that leads to many people being injured or killed in vehicle crashes. While few drivers can claim never to have seen a campaign warning of the dangers of distracted driving, many people still seem to think they can multitask safely.
A recent report on multitasking helps explain why doing so at the wheel is so dangerous.
Your brain cannot multitask
That is the key finding of the report. You might be able to do two things at once, but only if one of them does not require your brain. For instance, you can scratch your head while talking or press the gas pedal while thinking about cooking dinner. Yet, you cannot talk on the phone while focusing on the road. At least not in the way you think.
When people talk about multitasking, they assume they are doing two things simultaneously. What you are actually doing is alternating between the two tasks, or “context switching.” The changes can be so rapid that it seems simultaneous, yet you stop thinking about the road when you talk on the phone.
Does that mean it is OK to do less complex activities while driving?
Biting into a burger does not require that much brainpower. Nor does sipping a coffee. Yet they still distract you to some degree, aside from requiring you to take your hand off the wheel, which would slow your ability to steer in an emergency. It is almost impossible not to think of anything burger or coffee-related when consuming them. For instance: “I can’t believe I paid $8 for this,” or “That barista was nice. Maybe I’ll drop by more often.”
A driver doing something similar might not be thinking about needing to brake in time to avoid rear-ending you. They might not be alert to the fact you are indicating left. If they hit you, then there is one thing you need to focus on – getting adequate compensation.