Distracted Driver Accidents

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Can our Brain Handle Multitasking when Driving?

Brian DebelleBrian Debelle

Do you ever wonder why people say ‘multitasking’ is a positive strength to put on a resume?

The reality is that multitasking is actually not a strength- it drains the brain of energy as it forces it to switch back and forth to complete tasks with less efficiency and less quality. Many drivers think they can change the music and chat on the phone all while driving. Due to the lack of concentration the brain puts on multiple tasks at once- driving while doing any other tasks is one of the most dangerous things you can do.

What’s Going on in the Brain when we Multitask?

The prefrontal cortex part of the brain ignites when you need to focus on a task- it is split 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 tasks at hand, the sides work independently of each other, each focusing on one task. Scientists at a Paris University conducted a study that found that whenever someone tries to complete two tasks, the brain splits in half to accomplish this. What we can take from this is – if you are doing any other task besides driving while you are behind the wheel, your brain has a hard time processing these signals and ultimately results in tasks being divided between the two frontal cortexes. In the study, the scientists added another third task to participants and they found that the participants forgot one of the three tasks they were asked to complete.

Neuroscientist Etienne Koechlin, the leader of the study states, [we] “might be in great trouble when we try to juggle more than two tasks, simply because we have only two frontal lobes.”

Her study also concluded that somethings are easier to do at the same time such as eating, checking your email, and watching T.V. – that’s because these tasks do not demand the prefrontal cortex to be as engaged as driving. Essentially, these tasks are done on autopilot and require minimal concentration.

Neurologist Adam Gazzaley says that multitasking affects our performance due to the simultaneous processing that we require our brains to do while switching tasks constantly. Essentially, you can’t multitask well because you are forcing your brain to split up to perform these tasks. Driving requires serious concentration because you are not only subjecting yourself to other’s driving choices, but you are held accountable for your judgements behind the wheel as well. This means that to protect everyone’s safety, it is imperative to solely focus on the road and not overwhelm the brain by taking on multiple tasks. This would inevitable increase your risk of crashing by on overwhelming amount.

The posterior lateral prefrontal cortex is a part of the brain that takes over when the brain received too many information signals to handle. The issue with this happening is that the posterior lateral prefrontal cortex lines up these signals in order instead of processing them all at the same time. Therefore, multitasking isn’t reliable – if the information signals funnel into the brain too quickly, the pLPFC lines up the first two pieces of information and forgets about the rest. So, if you are driving, texting a friend, trying to change the radio station, and thinking about a place to go for dinner – what attention have you left for the road?

Interrupting one task to perform another one disrupts short-term memory which allows you to remember information for a short period of time. For example, trying to talk on the phone and remember directions would be difficult and could cause confusing and disruption. According to a Los Angeles car accident lawyer, one of the most common cases of wrongful death are due to car accidents where someone was killed due to negligent behavior. Taking another person’s life to respond to a text message in a timely manner is neglecting your own safety as well as everyone else’s’ on the road. Experts say that switching between multiple different tasks results in 40% loss in productivity- so why risk a car accident by trying to juggle multiple things at once?

Multitasking slows you down and increases the number of mistakes made, so is it worth it to text and drive if there is a likelihood that you will make more mistakes- possibly taking a life?



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