Aaaah, multitasking. Not enough hours in the day. Too much to do. Work, errands, paperwork, kids’ after-school activities, dinner, and the to-do list goes on. Welcome to modern times! Switching between two or more tasks is taxing on the brain. Research shows it hampers productivity by reducing comprehension, attention, and performance (VeryWellMind).
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By shifting goals while driving, you choose to do one task now over another
Multitasking while driving leads to nine fatalities a day
While behind the wheel not only has negative impact on how you drive, but it’s downright dangerous. It can cost you your life and/or someone else’s. Distracted driving, that’s what multitasking behind the wheel is, is one of the biggest and preventable causes of traffic fatalities.
Across the nation, numbers are up for distracted driving car accidents, injuries, and fatalities. The NHSTA says it claimed 3,522 lives in 2021 alone. In 2019, 424,000 people were injured in car crashes involving distracted drivers.
What is multitasking while driving
Unfortunately, there are many driving distractions or ways to multitask when you’re on the road. The long list includes cellphone use like talk/text/social media , eating/drinking/smoking, parenting the kids in the backseat, applying makeup, playing with the radio, daydreaming, and more.
In experiments published in 2001, shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40% of someone’s productive time
Just think of all the things you try to do while driving, or at a red light. In a nutshell, you’re multitasking anytime your attention is away from the road and onto something else.
The brain on multitasking
When you multitask, it drains the brain of energy. Why? Because you’re forcing it to switch back and forth to finish the tasks at hand, but with less efficiency and quality. At the risk of getting a bit too technical, your prefrontal cortex ignites when focusing on one task, splitting into the right side and the left side. Together, these two sides assist the brain in engaging in a single task.
If there are two things to do, at hand, these two sides (now) work independently of each other, each focusing only on one task. Essentially, by multitasking you’re splitting the brain and affecting performance. Bad performance behind the wheel can cost you your life. Driving requires tons of concentration, you’re not only focusing on what’s going on in front of you, but you’re also anticipating what’s next, as well as having to use quick reflexes to avoid surprising elements like say debris flying off from a truck.
Chronic multitaskers tend to show more impulsivity, lower levels of executive control and are often distracted easily
You remember only two tasks, so driving safety gets forgotten
If your brain receives too much information, or signals, at the same time, the posterior lateral prefontal cortex takes over. It lines up these signals in order, instead of processing it all at the same time. Only two signals can line up, the rest gets forgotten. So if you’re texting while driving, talking to the kids in the backseat, the road ahead and everything else you’ve got to do to stay safe goes out the window.