Last updated on November 8, 2019 at 11:19 am
Teenagers think it’s cool to multitask. They’re masters at it. They watch TV, surf the internet, text their friends and do their homework — all at the same time.
It’s like a badge of honor to see how much they can do at once.
Unfortunately, many teens include driving on their multitasking list — and that’s a critical mistake.
Research has repeatedly shown that the human mind isn’t built for multitasking. In fact, research indicates that multitasking may even have long-term harmful effects on brain function.
Stanford researcher Clifford Nass performed experiments with 262 college students that required them to switch tasks, filter irrelevant information and use working memory. The expectation was the multitasking students would outperform those that didn’t multitask — at least on some of the activities.
Instead, the results were exactly the opposite. Multitasking students were abysmal at all three tasks. Even more alarming was that only one experiment actually involved multitasking. That told Nass even when they focus on a single activity, those who frequently multitask actually use their brains less effectively.
Multitasking while driving is a real problem. Piloting a two-ton vehicle through traffic, you must be ready for the unexpected:
- What if the car in front of me blows a tire?
- What if the driver next to me is reading a text and swerves into my lane?
Despite what we have been conditioned to believe, driving is scientific, and requires a high level of concentration (but only if we care about arriving safely).
When your teen is moving at a mile a minute, the brief distraction brought on by drinking coffee, adjusting the stereo, answering a phone call or checking a text — even if it only takes a split second — is enough time for something to happen that could change your teen’s life forever.
Our young drivers may pride themselves on their ability to do multiple things at once. Even worse, they may multitask without even giving it a second thought. But when it comes to driving, it’s crucial that you impress on your teen to adopt a pilot’s mentality when they get behind the wheel.
Continually remind them that when they operate a motor vehicle they take on a huge responsibility, not just to themselves, but to their passenger (remember the GDL law) and other drivers on the road.
This is not just something we need to talk about — it’s an example we all need to set for our kids, starting today. Children actually learn to drive from the time they are toddlers, just by watching us!
Here’s a life-saving tip: Put your phone in the glove box or the trunk before you go and insist that your teens do the same. Each of our lives is important — much too important to be lost because of a text, a phone call or some other distraction.
When we are driving, we push our brain to the limit — IF we are doing it correctly. Whatever the distraction, it needs to be left at the curb before we pull away.
Stay Safe Out There!
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Plymouth Rock Assurance in New Jersey is proud to feature blog posts by Bob Ragazzo, a certified Defensive Driving Instructor, founder of Save Your Teen Driver LLC, as well as an Adult Driver Training company, Collision Avoidance Technology & Training LLC, and a nonprofit educational resource for parents and teens: The Parents’ Coalition to Stop Teen Driving Deaths NOW! Most importantly, he is the father of two young drivers, Nick and Patrick. Bob trains thousands of drivers each year, both experienced and inexperienced. He has authored dozens of articles on driver training and several eBooks, including: “7 Things That Every Parent Must Teach Their Young Driver.” He has been featured on Network News shows from Florida to California, and is a regular guest Driving Expert on radio stations all over the U.S. and Canada.