Knowing When To Stop - Intelligent Braking Systems
Taking Driving for Granted: Cars and Other Cultures

Distracted Driving: Why You Should Strive to be a Uni-Tasker in the Car

Distracted driving
Photo: iStockphoto

I remember that when I created my very first resume, my worldly friend who had been employed for two weeks told me that I should definitely put "multitasking" as a skill, so that employers would know I could handle whatever they would be throwing at me. I kept adding "multitasking" on job applications for years and it was the only lie on my resume.

The reality is that I'm a uni-tasker. I can only do one thing - properly - at a time. I'm such a uni-tasker that I am routinely mocked because I refuse to answer my cellphone when I'm a PASSENGER in the car (I am far too busy driving with my mind).

As it turns out, I am not unique - most of us are uni-taskers pretending that we're good at multitasking. But, while some assert that the ability to effectively multitask is a myth, multitasking doesn't seem to be going anywhere.

It's illegal to use a handheld cellphone while driving in most of Canada but most provinces still allow hands-free devices. Most car manufacturers now include handsfree cellphone connections and infotainment options in the dashboard to let you stay connected while in your vehicle. Don't text and drive - dictate your texts (and Facebook posts) aloud, without taking your eyes off the road! Great solution, right? As it turns out, not so much.

According to this article from the National Post, a new AAA study has found that using in-car voice commands to text or check email are actually more distracting than simply talking on a cellphone because they require just as much, if not more, concentration to perform.

"The greater the concentration required to perform a task, the more likely a driver is to develop what researchers call “tunnel vision” or “inattention blindness.” Drivers will stop scanning the roadway or ignore their side and rearview mirrors. Instead, they look straight ahead, but fail to see what’s in front of them, like red lights and pedestrians.

“People aren’t seeing what they need to see to drive. That’s the scariest part to me,” said Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the group’s safety research arm. “Police accident investigative reports are filled with comments like they ‘looked, but did not see.’ That’s what drivers tell them. We used to think they were lying, but now we know that’s actually true.”

As it turns out, it's not holding your cellphone that is distracting but the brain power it takes to have a conversation with someone, whether it's via text, email or aloud. And while texting and driving takes your eyes off the road (and has been the cause of thousands of deadly crashes), the AAA study showed that in-car voice commands essentially take your whole brain off the road.

The challenge of communicating with a computer (while dictating a text message correctly, for example), can be even more distracting; trying to get the computer to understand "I just picked up the turducken" is recipe for disaster.

While having a cell phone in the car is great for emergencies, do you really need to dictate texts to your BFF while speeding down the freeway? Bottom line is that if you're driving, it's better to be a uni-tasker.

Check out the full article for more on the study. Do you use hands-free devices in the car? Do you think they're risky? Let us know in the comments.

- Rose R.


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