THE ILLUSION OF MULTITASKING AND DISTRACTED WALKING

Multitasking (doing more than one thing at the same time) is largely an illusion. We can’t do it, at least not well. No one can perform two cognitive tasks simultaneously. Instead, what we are doing is switching our attention from one task to another. The problem is we have limited cognitive resources, and when they are being used for the purposes of switching between¬† two tasks, they are not available to engage in the tasks themselves. A great example that multitasking does not work is the subject of distracted walking. It is not hard to find on the internet video clips of people walking into a wall, falling into a fountain, falling onto a subway track, falling off a bridge, or aimlessly walking in front of a car on a busy roadway, all while engaged with their cell phones. While these video clips have entertainment value, the problem of distracted walking is no laughing matter. The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) estimates that pedestrian fatalities jumped by 10 percent last year, an increase that comes after a 19 percent increase from 2009 to 2014. In fact, the GHSA projected that pedestrian deaths in 2015 would account for 15 percent of all traffic fatalities.

Pedestrian injuries resulting from multitasking are senseless occurrences that easily can be prevented. The solution begins with public awareness of the potential hazards caused by the distractive and destructive use of electronic devices. That awareness should start in every home, and every school with the proper dissemination of the simple facts associated with multitasking and distracted walking. Please do your part.

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