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Distracted Driving And The Dangers Of Multi-Tasking

A study conducted at Ohio State University has demonstrated that multi-tasking between two visual tasks is more difficult than multi-tasking between a visual task and an audio task. The study has implications for those concerned about distracted driving. The laws that have been passed to ban texting and driving address situations where a driver is splitting his or her attention between the visual task of driving the visual task of reading or writing a text message.

Some critics of texting bans have contended that distractions are simply a part of driving and that texting is no more dangerous than listening to the radio or talking with passengers in the car. While those tasks can be distracting, this study points out that those largely auditory tasks do not harm a person’s ability to perform other tasks, such as driving, as much as a visual task would. The study further showed that people who were asked to multi-task between visual tasks were more confident in their ability to do so, despite achieving much poorer results than their audio multi-tasking counterparts.

The study participants who switched between visual tasks saw a 50 percent decrease in their ability to complete a simple puzzle. The audio task led to a 30 percent decrease. It was clear that either distraction was enough to seriously harm their ability to perform. When considered in light of driving ability, either form of distraction would seem to increase the danger of an accident.

Source: Insurance Journal, “Why Some Types of Multitasking Are More Dangerous Than Others,” 27 July 2012

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