We’ve all heard the warning that texting and driving can be dangerous and leads to car accidents, but why has the California legislature made it illegal. Why is that so?
In this busy world we live in, many of us feel the need to multitask in order to just keep up. Why not use that free time we have while we drive down Howe Avenue in Sacramento or McHenry Avenue in Modesto in order to catch up on some texting or e-mailing or even make some hands-free phone calls?
Science is beginning to discover the answer: There is really no such thing as efficient multi-tasking. Our brains just don’t work that way.
Some recent studies have shown that using our phones in any way, even hands-free, while driving makes us just as impaired as having had a few drinks. Multitasking while driving reduces our perception-reaction times as much as one-third to 40% (The Real Dangers of Multitasking, from a lecture series presented by Professor Indre Viskontas, PH.D.)
The problem is that our brain really cannot do two things at once. Instead, the brain switches back and forth between them. So, while we are concentrating on one thing, such as texting, our brain is really not paying attention to the other thing: our driving. We think we are being efficient when we are really not.
The effects of multitasking are easily seen if you observe someone trying to text while walking in a crowd, such as at a shopping mall. They tend to walk slower and appear just a bit unsteady on their feet. This is usually not a problem in a mall setting but it can be deadly behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.
While we’re driving, our speed greatly reduces the amount of time we have for making critical decisions. At 40 miles per hour, we are traveling 60 feet per second. If we don’t immediately realize that the car in front of us is braking, we won’t hit our brakes in time and the next thing we know we’ve rear-ended that car.
According to a study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent of driving blind at 55 mph for the length of an entire football field!
Here are some other sobering facts from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration: In 2015 3,477 people were killed and an estimated 391,000 people injured as a result of distracted driving.
All the information available points to one conclusion: texting while driving (or any type of distracted driving, for that matter) is dangerous and should be avoided. However good we think we are at multitasking, there is no place for it when we get behind the wheel. That’s why it’s illegal.