Multitasking behind the wheel puts drivers in ‘physical danger’, finds new research

Fleet World have published an interesting article examining the dangers of multi tasking when driving. The use of mobile phones features as part of my on road courses. Have a read and take the opportunity to think about how you use your mobile phone when driving and/or company policy.

The idea of multi-tasking behind the wheel is a potentially fatal myth, in particular when it comes to texting and talking on a mobile phone, according to new research.

The study on ‘The Battle for Attention’ by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) and the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) indicates that focusing on more than one task whilst driving can have a ‘detrimental’ effect on the quality and accuracy of driving performance.

TRL researchers Dr Neale Kinnear and Dr Alan Stevens, and the IAM’s director of policy and research Neil Greig said texting engages three of the five key areas of distraction to a ‘high’ level – cognitive, visual and manual. A mobile phone conversation also engages three of five areas of distraction to a ‘high’ level – cognitive, audible and exposure time.

Figures from the Department for Transport in 2013 found 2,995 cases where distraction in the vehicle was listed as a contributory factor to accidents. A further 1,627 cases were listed where distraction outside the vehicle was a contributory factor.

The report said: “Research has confirmed that tasks almost always interfere with other tasks carried out at the same time. The brain never actually focuses on two tasks at the same time – it switches back and forward between them.

“As driving is so complex and requires various cognitive processes, taking on another task when driving can mean a driver is unable to pay sufficient attention to all the activities required for safe driving. This can lead to a processing failure resulting in a loss of control, putting the driver and other road users in physical danger.”

Sarah Sillars, IAM’s chief executive officer, commented: “This is proof, should it be needed, that multi-tasking and driving simply don’t mix. Whilst there are plenty of distractions to tempt the driver, the individual needs to know that the phone, or internet, or the iPod simply don’t matter – driving is the only activity that should occupy your mind while at the wheel.

“It’s important that we work with the government, car makers and educators to deliver a renewed focus on driver training and road safety – and that people know that distractions can be fatal.”

A full copy of the report can be downloaded here:

FLEETWORLD includes a lot of industry relevant material which is not only informative but can help you and your driving for work staff stay safe.