Over the years, many folks have tried to argue that we can do a lot of things and drive at the same time. While these have made for lively discussions, the truth is a little starker. Let’s take each of these arguments one at a time.
Myth #1: Drivers can multitask.
The Truth: The human brain can’t do two things at once. What happens is that the brain switches from one task to the other. While the brain can do it quickly, it still slows reaction time and can take your eyes off the road. Have you ever tried to answer email while being in a meeting at the same time? You will miss things in the meeting if you try to multitask and doing it on the road is far more dangerous.
Myth #2: Talking to someone on a cell phone is no different than talking to someone in the car.
The Truth: The University of Utah conducted a study that showed how drivers can miss changing traffic conditions while they are talking on a cellphone. Drivers often picture the person they are talking with, and that can make them miss important road cues. If you have ever stopped talking to someone in the car to merge or change lanes, it proves the point. Any conversation can be distracting. The difference between talking
on a cellphone and having someone in the car is you have an extra set of eyes who can alert you to hazards.
Myth #3: Hands-free devices eliminate the danger of cell phone use during driving.
The Truth: It doesn’t matter if the phone is hands free, because the brain is still being distracted by the conversation. While talking on the phone, your brain is otherwise engaged, and it can result in what is called “inattention blindness.” You are looking but you don’t see it.
Myth #4: I only text at stop lights, so it’s OK.
The Truth: If you have ever been behind someone who doesn’t go when the light turns green, there is a good chance you were stopped behind a driver who was texting at the light. AAA did a study that shows that texters can be distracted as much as 27 seconds after sending a text, which is a long time when you are behind the wheel. For comparison, it takes less than 5 seconds to travel the length of a football field when driving 55 MPH. So, what are you missing in those 27 seconds?
Myth #5: Voice-to-text is safe to do while driving
The Truth: You do have to manually activate voice-to-text most of the time. Are you going to send a text you didn’t proofread first? That’s what makes it risky. It is just as dangerous as manually texting because you are still taking your eyes off the road.
Want to learn more?
SAIF’s safe driving page
Distracted driving – National Highway Traffic Safety Administration