“Multi-Tasking” when driving – texting and talking on mobile phones most dangerous activities
A report issued in advance of Road Safety Week (23 to 29 November) has confirmed the dangers of multi-tasking whilst driving – and the potential for road traffic accidents as a result.
Dr Neale Kinnear and Dr Alan Stevens from the Transport Research Laboratory and Neil Greig from the Institute of Advanced Motorists have published their research and have concluded that when drivers try to engage in more than one task there is a detrimental effect on the quality and accuracy of driving performance. The research has looked at the psychology of the processes involved and the effect on the cognitive skills required to drive, considering the real life complexities of driving and how individuals interact with their cars.
The report, entitled “The Battle for Attention”, looks at the five main areas that can cause distraction – cognitive, visual, auditory, manual and exposure time, and ranked activities as high, medium or low in terms of level of distractibility. Both texting and having a conversation on a mobile phone had three of the five areas ranked as “high”, with a consequent reduction in the quality of driving.
The research also found that even smoking or eating can cause a high level of manual distraction, again with the potential to reduce driving ability.
The conclusion reached in the report is:-
Research has confirmed that tasks almost always interfere with other tasks carried out at the same time. The brain never actually focuses on two tasks at the same time – it switches back and forth between them.
As driving is so complex and requires various cognitive processes, taking on another task when driving can mean a driver is unable to pay sufficient attention to all the activities required for safe driving. This can lead to a processing failure resulting in a loss of control, putting the driver and other road users in physical danger.
Philip Edwards, a serious injury claims expert with Clarke Willmott said:-
In some ways the conclusion of this report is one which intuitively we all know is right, and yet all of us who use the road will regularly still see people using their mobile phones when driving. Hopefully reports like this, and other road safety initiatives, will result in a change of culture, where giving in to temptation to use devices which distract drivers will become a thing of the past. We see all too frequently the terrible consequences of drivers becoming distracted, driving negligently as a result and causing serious and life changing injuries, and tragically fatalities as well. Driving is a complex process, there is no place for any other activity when you get behind the wheel.
Road Safety Week starts today, and important initiatives like this can raise awareness of many road safety issues, including mobile phone use, and in turn hopefully reduce the number of serious injuries and deaths on our roads.