Death by multi-tasking


When I listened to NPR on the way home and heard about deaths caused by texting while driving, and then came across an article about the same thing within three minutes of sitting down at my computer, I got the idea that maybe that is what I should focus my attention on today.

Alex Brown texted as she drove to school. Alex Brown died while texting as she drove to school.

Driving is difficult enough to demand full attention from the driver. Yet more and more, we have a sense of invincibility at being able to multitask while doing anything and everything. We allow ourselves the freedom to be stupid.

It’s not enough to be leery of just plain incompetent drivers. No, we must be aware of those who cannot control their rage. We must look out for those who are high on drugs or are drunk. When we see parents with a car full of kids, we must know it is just a matter of time before many of them will take their eyes off the road to smack the one causing the most trouble. There are those who are reading. There are those who are putting on make up, shaving, eating, drinking coffee.  You name it, there is probably somebody doing it on the road. Yes, I’ve even heard of  “that” (ahem) being done while driving as well.

While technology is supposed to make our lives simpler and safer, it seems the reverse is happening. Some time during or after 2006, AAA did a survey which uncovered the fact that 46% of the teens they asked admitted to texting behind the wheel. There are two high schools in the near vicinity of my home. I try to avoid driving by them in the morning and at dismissal time if at all possible. The first thing the kids do as they leave the building is get out their cell phones as they walk to their cars. It is not safe to be anywhere near the schools during those times.

“It’s not just teens who are texting. A whopping 81 percent of the United States population admits to resorting to texting while  driving a vehicle, in spite of being well versed with the various dangers of texting while driving. Going through texting while driving statistics you can’t help but notice that the problem has reached epidemic proportions, with thousands of people either losing their lives or getting severely injured in such accidents.”

Why do we insist on multi-tasking? Does it make us seem more accomplished? more competent? When people began talking more about the ability to multi-task, I felt left out because I have never been all that good about being able to concentrate on doing more than one thing at a time. I didn’t apply for some jobs because the ad called for someone able to multi-task. However, it seems this act has been a phenomenon long enough for it to be studied.

Since the 1990s, experimental psychologists have started experiments on the nature and limits of human multitasking. It has been shown multitasking is not as workable as concentrated times. In general, these studies have disclosed that people show severe interference when even very simple tasks are performed at the same time, if both tasks require selecting and producing action (e.g., (Gladstones, Regan & Lee 1989) (Pashler 1994)). Many researchers believe that action planning represents a “bottleneck”, which the human brain can only perform one task at a time.[2] Psychiatrist Richard Hallowell[3] has gone so far as to describe multitasking as a “mythical activity in which people believe they can perform two or more tasks simultaneously.” I have been vindicated.

Supposedly, it is even dangerous to talk on a cell phone while driving, according to the NPR program. It makes me nervous every time I see a driver approaching me with a hand up to his or her ear. I’m guessing I see this activity four or five times every time I’m out on the road. However, rational me says, at least they can still have their eyes on the road while they are talking. When someone texts, they are focusing on the keyboard. The speaker then said that even talking on the phone is more dangerous than talking to someone who is a passenger in the car with you. That makes me inattentive enough. I also feel uncomfortable adjusting the radio or the heater or air conditioner.

Laws have not kept up with texters. So far, only 60% of our states have enacted laws concerning this traffic hazard. Even if laws are passed, many people will ignore them and take a risk of suffering the consequences. It will be considered no different from the other distractive behaviors we allow ourselves as we aim our two ton vehicles at the nearest unsuspecting driver or pedestrian.

This second video has a text: “No, I’m not busy. I’m just driving…written in text language. Look for it. Think about it. Namaste. Attic Annie



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4 Comments

Filed under Casual conversation, diary, general topics, life, musings, teenagers, texting, Uncategorized

4 responses to “Death by multi-tasking

  1. Edward Burke

    The view is emerging from survivors being interviewed that the recent crash of the Belgian bus in the Swiss tunnel may have resulted (at least in part) from the coach driver’s attempt to load a DVD for passengers while driving through the tunnel. If investigators corroborate this view, “death by multi-tasking” can become a new headline of choice to cover fatal vehicular accidents resulting from the range of distractions drivers permit themselves. In the interim I propose bumperstickers to read: “Is YOUR cellphone licensed to drive?” “Can you drive as well as your cellphone?” et cetera.

  2. In our jobs, whenever we hear multitasking, first thing that comes in our mind is, impossible, because it is difficult to do such activities at the same time. Obviously, we can’t focus to our tasks anymore! So, why there are people who do multitasking while driving? My sister was addicted to texting. I always reminded her not to do such activities while driving, and she just ignored my warning. She tried texting while heading Alice Anna St. Since her phone kept on distracting her, she was shocked when a girl crossed the road. She quickly hit her brakes. Luckily, Challenger from Dodge has good braking system, and it has features for avoiding accidents. My dad bought that car from one of the dealerships at Edmonton. After that event, she didn’t use her cellphone for 3 months, and she never tried texting while driving.

    • atticannie

      I am happy she learned this hard lesson before a life changing tragedy occurred for her sake and for the pedestrian. I take it that you are in Canada? Thanks for adding to this blog.

  3. That man, especially woman, can multitask is a misunderstanding, it is really planning it’s about.
    Men are good at planning in time, into the future, where woman are good at planning in space, managing the daily tasks. The primitive men of old were hunters, maybe hunting for days before they caught the game, while the woman stayed home managing the daily life in the tribe, together with the grandparents. When the hunters came home with the game they didn’t do anything until the next hunt or war. This is also the reason why it’s the woman who comes best into the new world of commerce in Africa.
    Here in Denmark the farm work were split so that planning for which seeds were to be seeded where, what cows or pigs to buy, and so on, where male work, typically planning in time, and typically work taking longer time.
    The women took care of the daily work, as food to the farms workforce, collecting eggs, milking, and a lot of other short tasks. In other words, it reminds of singletasking for men and multitasking for women, but in reality it’s two ways of thinking not tasking.