The Dangers of Texting while Driving
Imagine driving on a country road at 6 in the morning, texting a friend, and wham, the next thing you know, you’ve sideswiped another car. When you look in your rear view mirror you are horrified to see that this car was T-boned by a truck, and now 2 people are dead. You’re not sure it’s your fault. It was a drizzly morning, and maybe the other guy just drifted over to your lane. What the heck happened? You don’t really remember a thing.
So begins the amazing true story of a teenager and 2 families whose lives were turned upside down in a matter of seconds. The book, “A Deadly Wandering”, written by Pulitzer Prize winning author, Matt Richtel, links our increasing habit of talking or texting while driving with compelling up-to-date research on the brain and attention.
As the story unfolds, we learn that attention is not an overhead light”; it is a laser beam. This means we really can’t focus on more than one thing at a time, even though we THINK we are doing just fine taking it all in – the road, the radio, the text we’re reading or sending…it’s all good. Only it isn’t.
Top Down versus Bottoms Up Attention
By consulting with 2 neurologists who are researching attention, Dr. Strayer and Dr. Gazzaley , the author enlightens us as to how the brain works. When you voluntarily set an intention, narrow your focus and get the job done, you’re using “top-down” attention. You have control over the event.
When you hear the buzz of a text, a ringing phone, or a loud noise, your nervous system involuntarily shifts away from the task at hand and focuses on the new input. This is called “bottoms-up” attention. It comes from your nervous system making sure there is no danger. You can’t pay attention to more than one input.
Can you drive and talk at the same time?
Dr. Strayer conducted research studies in the 1990 to determine how many inputs the brain could handle. He built a cockpit driving stimulator, and asked students to manipulate a joystick to drive along a curvy country road or hit a button for a red light so the car would “brake”. He also conducted another experiment in which students listened to a story or music while they drove. In another experiment, he also had them talk on the phone while driving.
When college students listened to a story while driving, they could remember the story line, but had no recall of intersections or geographical landmarks on their journey. When they talked on the phone they made twice the number of errors as when they were listening to a radio. He was able to link the issues of talking on the phone, or texting (in later research) to the 5 years of research done with pilots. Both scenarios proved that the brain can only do one thing well at a time.
And the point is…
When you text and drive, or talk and drive, you’ll remember the text, but may not notice that car that is about to turn in front of you! Why is that? Your brain releases dopamine, a neurochemical in the reward areas of the brain when we hear or share information. It really feels good to us when that happens.
Dopamine, the Feel Good Addiction, can hijack your attention
We crave connection. Texting meets this need with great ease. Unfortunately, this means our bottoms-up attention gets ignited every time we text or receive a text. Concurrently, we get a squirt of dopamine each time we feel this connection – so we get addicted to texting. We wait for the next text to come in rather than watch the road or complete a task. Technology is a good thing until it hijacks your attention.
There are now up to 100 studies that prove we can only do one thing at a time!
Text or call when you arrive. Stay safe for those who love you. It literally can be a matter of life or death.And, for a fascinating read, pick up a copy of “A Deadly Wandering” by Matt Richtel. It’s on the N.Y.Times Best Seller list, so it will be easy to find! You may also enjoy this related article: Cell Phone Use While Driving Statistics
If you want more information about issues with cell phones, including protection from cell phone electromagnetic radiation, please consult the BioElectric Shield Company Buyer’s Guide to Reliable EMF Protection.