If you follow my blog, or perhaps have checked out my new book Using Your Brain To Win, you know I’m not a believer in multi-tasking. And the evidence continues to grow that it is not only unproductive, but in some cases downright dangerous. Did you eat breakfast in your car on the way to work this morning? Maybe nibble on a bagel or piece of fruit as you hurry to the office? Do you ever stop at the fast-food drive-thru after working late? You’re so hungry you can’t wait until you get home, so you dive into that burger and fries while driving down the freeway at 70 mph.
If so, you might like to know that eating in the car is the #3 cause of auto accidents. In fact, according to the Automobile Association (http://mintinfo.hubpages.com/hub/Top-10-causes-of-Car-Accidents), the top 10 causes of auto accidents now are (in order):
- Cell phone/mobile use
- Changing the radio/CD
- Eating while driving
- Rubbernecking (looking at something as you drive by)
- Drunk driving
- Drug use
- In-car distractions (putting on makeup, tending to small child)
- Speeding/reckless driving
- Bad weather
- Bad roads
Notice a trend here? The top seven all have to do with some type of distraction to the brain. Either self-inflicted or, as in #5 and #6, chemically induced. In other words, we’re causing accidents by constantly attempting to multi-task while driving. In response to our societal addiction to our mobile phones, auto manufacturers have developed hands-free devices to minimize distractions for drivers. Now they’re making it possible to carry on conversations with our cars. The latest models allow drivers to use spoken commands to dictate emails, texts, and make phone calls. The theory being that we won’t get distracted because we’re not looking down at our phones or using our hands. Problem solved, right? Not so fast. According to a recent article on cnn.com (http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/14/opinion/nass-talking-to-your-car/index.html?eref=mrss_igoogle_cnn), even this new technology can be so distracting that it impairs the ability to drive. Studies have shown that while talking doesn’t take our eyes off the road or our hands off the wheel, it does take our minds (i.e. focus, attention) off the road. Which means that even a simple activity like talking to your car can increase the risk of getting in an accident. The article goes into some detail about why talking while driving is so distracting. But it all comes down to the fact that our brains are not built for multi-tasking. By now, most of us know that talking or texting on a cell phone while driving is risky business. But we do it anyway because we’re all running so fast to keep up that it feels like if we don’t answer these “urgent” messages right away, we’ll fall even farther behind. So our brains override the natural instinct for self-preservation, and we continue to talk, text, and email while driving. That’s not just risky behavior – it’s irrational, illogical, and crazy! In business, I tell my clients to slow down in order to go fast, as it just might save their business. In this case, slowing down to go fast just might save your life. This doesn’t mean reducing your rate of speed as you attempt to change the radio station or send a text message. I’m talking about paying attention to the thought processes that tell you it’s okay to multi-task while driving. When driving, we need to pause for a moment (slow down), and notice our thought bubbles:
- This incoming email is so urgent that I need to risk having an accident in order to answer it.
- This text message must be important enough to take my eyes off the road and send it.
- I won’t get in an accident. That always happens to someone else.
Then consciously replace them with new ones:
- This message can wait 10 minutes until I get home.
- I’m driving really fast on a busy freeway. It’s not safe to look at my phone right now.
- No email is worth risking my life and the lives of those around me.
It may sound cool to have a car that you can talk to. But the evidence suggests that it’s not a good idea. When the urge to text while driving hits, please take a deep breath, pause for a moment, and consciously remind yourself what’s really important.
Call to action: Make a list of the thought bubbles that tell you it’s okay to multi-task while driving.