Most people associate distracted driving with using a handheld device while driving, eating while driving and any other manual distraction. These are not the only ways that a driver can lose focus behind the wheel.

There is a common misconception that drivers can multitask. According to the National Safety Council, multitasking safely while driving is a myth. To drive takes mental energy and so if you are on the phone or thinking about something other than driving, your reaction speed slows down.

Why can’t drivers multi-task?

Most people cannot multi-task. According to the NHTSA, people task switch. The human brain is not capable of engaging in more than one mentally intensive task simultaneously. Instead, people have the cognitive ability to switch quickly between tasks. The more complex the tasks, the more likely a person is to experience a mental overload. Mental overload can be responsible for a driver who has his or her eyes on the road but cannot focus on what is happening.

What happens when drivers use electronic devices?

Electronic devices are among the biggest culprits in terms of distracted driving. A GPS, for instance, causes visual and manual distractions. The driver must listen to the directions given and may also have to adjust the GPS periodically. Entertainment devices can compete for a driver’s attention and mobile phones can lead to combination distractions. To text involves manual, visual and cognitive distractions. A person has to manipulate the phone to answer the text, use his or her eyes to read the conversation and focus cognitively on what the other person says.

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