In recent years, drivers have become comfortable with certain distractions in the car. Smartphones are a major culprit of distracted driving. They have given drivers the ability to quickly respond to emails, check the weather, or write a social media status update. Unfortunately, even a momentary cognitive distraction can have disastrous results while driving.

While many people believe they can effectively drive and perform other minor tasks, the research simply disproves this idea time and time again. The fact is that any time cognitive, physical, or visual distractions occur, drivers run the risk of causing serious, even potentially fatal accidents. The National Safety Council argues that actual multitasking simply does not exist.

Many people pride themselves on the ability to multitask – the ability to perform two tasks at once. For instance, the dual activities of making a phone call while driving can be said to be two separate things completed at the same time. Unfortunately, true multitasking is a myth. People do not realize that the brain simply does not allow you to perform two tasks at once. It is more accurate to refer to this phenomenon as “sequential tasking.”

Essentially, the brain shifts focus from one task to the other. You are not completing two tasks at the same time; you are alternating from one task to the other. This cognitive balancing act occurs very quickly, but the fact remains that a driver simply cannot pay attention to two things at the same time. The cognitive process will quickly shift focus from one task to the other. Therefore, a driver distracted by the act of talking on the phone, eating, personal grooming or using a GPS system simply cannot focus on the act of driving.

Source: National Safety Council, “Understanding the Distracted Brain.” Accessed June 24, 2015.

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