As a lawyer who has handled thousands of personal injury cases in my 32 years as an attorney, I often think about how accidents happen, and how accurate is the memory of the parties and witnesses involved in them. I recently read an interesting book called WHY WE MAKE MISTAKES by Joseph T. Hallinan. In that book the author discusses how we “look without seeing”, “forget things in seconds”, and are “pretty sure we all are above average”.
One of the chapters in the book is called “We can walk and chew at the same time”. Although it portends to suggest that we are complex human beings with the ability to multitask, what research shows is that in reality, we really can’t. The author starts with the example of the pilot of Eastern Airlines Flight 401 who had “lost awareness of his situation” and while overly concerned with a $12 bulb that was malfunctioning, flew his perfectly good airplane into the ground killing everyone on board. Since 1990, no other type of airline accident has taken more lives.
“Multitasking” is a term cribbed from the computer world; it describes a technique by which a computer can split up its work into many processes or tasks. In realty, before multiple processors, computers couldn’t really multitask, but in fact were switching back and forth between tasks several thousand times per second, thus giving the illusion that everything is happening simultaneously. Multitasking is one of the great myths of the modern age. Although we think we are focusing on several activities at once, our attention is actually jumping back and forth between the tasks
Research has found that basically in about 78% of all crashes and 65% of near crashes, the drivers were either looking away or engaging in some secondary task, like fiddling with a cell phone. A single 2-second glance doubles the risk of an accident. For example, one study found that it took a total of eighty six seconds to enter an address into a GPS system. This typically involved between twenty and thirty-five glances away from the road, depending, in part on the age of the driver (older drivers needed more glances). The task of entering the address proved so absorbing that drivers often veered into another lane of traffic while tapping on the screen.
The bottom line is that driving demands our full attention. We are often victims of distractions within our vehicle, whether it is our phone, GPS, eating, smoking, dealing with our children, etc. Even a momentary lapse of attention can have devastating consequences. As humans, we often think we are infallible. The truth is, however, that we’re not. At Nelson Personal Injury we encourage everyone to give his or her full attention to driving, however if you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident, give us a call. All consultations are free.