How Good Are You at Multitasking Behind the Wheel

man using tablet and phone while driving

If you think you are better than average at multitasking while driving, you might be in for a surprise. According to the summary research examined by the American Psychological Association, so-called multitaskers are neither effective nor efficient. What makes this a scary thought for those of us battling through rush hour traffic every day is that according to a Kelley Blue Book survey, over 61% of drivers proudly admit they multitask behind the wheel. Talking on their cell phone took top honors followed by using the vehicle's navigation system and texting while driving. Unfortunately, like many people wired by today's technology, you may mistakenly believe you are the epitome of productivity based on all of the things you are taking care of at once.

Multitasking Doesn't Work as Advertised

There's one big problem with all those multitasking drivers with whom you share the road. Multitasking doesn't work the way most people think. It is a myth promulgated by today's environment to make overly stressed people feel more productive and effective at managing their hectic schedules or workload. What is really happening can be explained by developing an understanding of task completion, including:

  • Concurrent Tasking - If the task-at-hand is so repetitive as to be automatic, conscious thought may not be necessary to do two things at once. For example, you likely can walk and chew gum at the same time. So, it is fairly safe to say you can also drive to work while chewing gum without endangering other drivers.
  • Serial Tasking - Unfortunately, most so-called multitasking situations on the road are separate events that require serial tasking. In other words, the person is shifting from one task to another in rapid succession. Although it may seem that you're getting a lot done simultaneously, you're really not.

An article published by Stanford University researchers, who tested people who self-rated themselves to be effective multitaskers, proved that they were chronic multitaskers who made more mistakes, could remember fewer facts and took longer to complete a variety of tasks. The scary fact in all of this is those who thought they were the best multitaskers ended up being the worst at performing and completing multiple tasks.

NHTSA Says 25% of Deadly Crashes Involve Driver Distractions

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that one-fourth of all crashes involve some type of driver distraction and that the biggest threat facing teen drivers today is cell phone usage, especially trying to text while operating a vehicle at speed. Regardless of age, this technology-driven era we live in puts all of us at risk. Unfortunately, your daily commute to work or school can be filled with temptations and distractions that can lead to fatal miscalculations. Staying connected socially doesn't do much for you if you fail to make it home.

Researchers from the Department of Psychology and Artificial Intelligence at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands tested drivers across a wide range of activities from concurrently using their computer tablets to listening to music while driving. To no one's surprise, serial tasking proved less efficient and more dangerous with one exception. Listening to music, especially instrumental music, helped drivers to be more attentive and alert with less mental wandering while behind the wheel. These results are similar to tests that measured reading comprehension with instrumental and lyrical music playing in the background.

We all have a responsibility to keep our roadways as safe as possible for all types of vehicles, and pedestrians too. If you are injured in a collision with a distracted driver, it is important to speak with an attorney as soon after the accident as possible. If not, valuable evidence can be lost. Call Schackow & Mercadante at 877-798-7700 to schedule a consultation and review the details of your claim with an experienced personal injury lawyer.