06 April 2010

Driving While Distracted

Another study. This one finds that, in fact, two percent of people CAN perform effectively in a driving simulator at the same time as they memorize things and do math problems. (How exactly that simulates a phone conversation is a little opaque to me, but whatever.)

The new word for people who can do this? "Supertaskers." The rest of us, apparently, only fool ourselves that we're actually multitasking.

The first person to comment on the article summarized the problem fairly neatly: "This won't help. You'll have 98% of drivers claiming they belong to the 2% group."

I don't claim I belong to the two percent, but I will say that if I'm fatigued or sleepy, I'm kept more alert by chatting on the phone than by listening to music or opening the windows and slapping myself on the face. And it's a lot more comfortable than the latter.

While I'm not by any means suggesting that everyone should go out and text while driving, I do have to admit that studies of cell-phone use while driving get me thinking about all the other distracting things I've done behind the wheel.

A partial list (Mate, Mom, Dad: please don't read this):
  • peel and eat a banana (I've gotten in trouble and hit the windshield with that one)
  • study Greek from tape/CD (gets me driving too fast if I'm not careful)
  • attempt to read the tiny print on the cover of a CD, or on the CD itself
  • contemplate the beast with two backs
  • eat sushi, applying wasabi to each piece and dipping in soy sauce
  • disentangle the earphone wires and plug them into the phone
  • calculate mileage, after buying gas
So I have to say I don't think the technologies of today are the first things to have enabled driving while distracted, though they've probably brought it to new heights.