Kentucky Association of Counties

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Kentucky Association of Counties


County Champion


Multitasking behind the wheel is never a good idea

By Steve Clary, Safety and Loss Control Specialist
April serves as Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and even though it's now May, there's never a bad time to put the spotlight on some important reminders that will improve everyone's chances to stay safer on Kentucky roads.

Everyone has heard the term multitasking, which is the performance of multiple tasks at one time.

Driving a motor vehicle is a task that requires the driver to stay focused on that particular task with limited or no distractions.

Studies have shown that the brain is unable to complete multiple tasks at the same time. Instead, it prioritizes tasks and completes them in rapid succession, particularly cognitive demanding tasks such as driving and having a conversation.

Most people can walk and chew gum at the same time. These tasks are not cognitively demanding. However, most people cannot watch a movie and gather information for a test afterward while having a meaningful conversation with another person.

While driving a vehicle and having a conversation, a person’s reaction time is much slower due to the brain taking time to switch tasks, therefore increasing the risk of a collision when trying to avoid an unexpected hazard.

Multitasking is the root cause for the majority, if not all, of the motor vehicle crashes caused by distracted driving.

A driver’s attention needs to be focused on the road ahead, watching for hazards around the vehicle, monitoring critical vehicle functions, and observing other drivers’ behavior to avoid a possible collision.

Talking on a cell phone, eating, looking at a GPS, etc., while driving are not critical tasks and are unnecessary distractions to the driver. Almost all accidents that are related to distracted driving occur within three seconds of the distraction.  

The new technology in vehicles today has created more distractions than ever and according to the National Safety Council, 53 percent of drivers believe it makes them safer. Unfortunately, it is likely to have the opposite effect.

“Infotainment” dashboards and hands-free technology are not there to make you safer; they are there for convenience. The only way to be a safer and better defensive driver is to limit the amount of distractions while driving and stay focused on the task of driving.

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