People tend to text on their cell phone while they drive because they think they are better at multitasking than they really are. But studies about distracted driving continue to prove that people vastly overestimate how well they can manage multiple tasks and grossly underestimate how easily they can become distracted.
Researchers studied how well distracted drivers can respond to a changing environment, such as driving while texting, or driving while carrying on a conversation. Their study confirmed that people are not only worse than they think at juggling multiple visual distractions – they also seriously overestimate their overall ability to multitask. Researchers also found that people are far worse at visual multitasking than visual/aural multitasking. In other words, having to process and respond to external information (aka, driving), while also talking on the phone or to a passenger can be somewhat distracting, but the driver’s attention can be split in such a manner that the attention needed for safe driving is not completely compromised. “Visual multitasking,” such as texting while driving, involves looking at multiple things with varying view ranges – a mid-range view of the road ahead and other cars — then down to a close-range view of the cell phone keypad and screen, then back up and away again. Visual multitasking requires far more complicated attention diversion that aural multitasking.
The study had the participants tackling two tasks at the same time, visually tracking information while also responding to fast-changing stimuli, just like the road conditions change constantly when one drives. Fifty percent of participants were required to communicate with someone else via an instant messenger program. The other 50 percent of the subjects were asked to use an audio chat program rather than read a screen. While all study subjects did poorly on the visual tasks while performing the additional distraction task, the accuracy rate of the texting subjects dropped by 50 percent while visually multitasking; the accuracy of the audio subjects, meanwhile had an accuracy decrease of 30 percent.
The bottom line? A driver who will be 50 percent less accurate on the road is a dangerous driver.
Sunday, December 30th, 2012 and filed under Personal Injury.
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