Think You Can Multi-Task…Behind the Wheel or While Walking? Think Again…

Think You Can Multi-Task…Behind the Wheel or While Walking? Think Again…

A recent study, by Ohio State University researchers Jack Nasar and Derek Troyer, has found that distracted walking is causing more injuries than distracted driving based on data collected on cell-phone related emergency room visits.

Expectations at home, work and travelling between the two abound when it comes to multi-tasking. Driving without multi-tasking is commonly viewed as wasting time; after all it’s just driving…or is it? The same seems to apply to walking; long gone are the days of enjoying the scenery around you while walking the dogs, pushing kids in strollers or just getting around town.

Contrary to popular belief, our brains are just not wired for multi-tasking and something usually ends up paying the price. According to a Psychology Today July 2011 article by Teresa Aubele, Ph.D. and Susan Reynolds, Prime your Gray Cells, “the truth is that your brain simply cannot focus on more than one task at a time.” They go on to explain that when it comes to talking on the phone while driving, the belief that attention is being paid equally to both the conversation and driving is just plain wrong.

The brain is wired to switch from one task to the next. So, while a driver may be focussed on driving one moment, the second they need to provide an answer over the phone, the brain is no longer focussing on driving at all. Worse yet, there’s a lag time as the brain switches between tasks.

Why is this lag time so crucial? Well, when travelling at 65kms/hour a driver covers approximately 60 feet per second (Source: SmartMotorist.com). Time is lost each time the brain switches between driving and phone conversations, putting on make-up, shaving or any number of other driver distractions. This means, whether drivers believe it or not, they are not giving full attention to driving and are taking huge risks in injury to themselves or others.

Still not convinced…here’s a flash back to February 2011 for a look at the groundbreaking study out of Western Washington University involving a clown, a unicycle and a bunch of people talking or texting on handheld and handsfree phones. Just 25% of people on cell phones noticed the spectacle How much do you miss right in front of you when you’re using your cell phone? “It’s not a question of what your hands are doing. It’s a question of what your head is doing. And so when your head is engaged in that phone conversation, you become blind to some of the things happening around you,” said Dr. Ira Hyman of Western Washington University.

Translation: When people are on cell phones, hands-free or not, they can’t focus fully on driving or even walking.

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