How the myth of multitasking inspires distracted driving

If you consider yourself great at multitasking, brace yourself: There’s really no such thing.

Despite its remarkable capabilities, the human brain is not designed to handle several tasks at once. Instead, it rapidly switches between tasks, giving the illusion of simultaneous processing. This switch comes at a cost—each transition demands time and mental resources, leading to decreased overall performance at everything at once.

3 ways multitasking affects driver safety

The myth of multitasking is a significant contributor to the problem of distracted driving because people carry their mistaken beliefs with them when they get behind the wheel of their vehicles.

Whether eating, drinking or sneaking a quick peek at a cell phone, drivers keep trying to multitask while driving. All these activities have the potential to be:

  • Cognitive distractions: Texting, talking on the phone, carrying on an animated conversation with your passengers or singing along to the radio can all increase a driver’s cognitive load and compromise their ability to make fast decisions or respond to unexpected situations.
  • Visual distractions: Reading a message on a cell phone or rubbernecking at an accident each require a driver to take their eyes off the road. Even a momentary lapse in attention can lead to a serious wreck.
  • Manual distractions: Changing the radio station or trying to unwrap a sandwich both require a driver to take at least one hand off the wheel – and that reduces their ability to effectively control their vehicle.

Neurologists say that people who chronically try to multitask actually get gradually worse at even routine functions because they can become “chronically distracted,” unable to filter out what is important (and what is not) at any given moment. That could prove particularly disastrous behind the wheel.

Do yourself a favor: Slow down a little and take every task one at a time. That’s the best way to prioritize your safety on the road. If you are hurt in an accident with a distracted driver, find out more about your right to compensation for your losses, as their negligence shouldn’t be your burden.