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Science Provides an Understanding of Distracted Driving Dangers

January 17, 2023

Drivers today understand that cell phone use while driving is a very risky behavior. However, most people do not understand the science behind this danger to public safety. According to one study, taking one's eyes off the road is not the most significant risk associated with distracted driving. Researchers have found that the gravest danger presented by drivers using cell phones is "Recognition Error."  

Recognition Error is the most prevalent form of human driving error, and it accounts for about 90 percent of all crashes. Recognition Error includes inadequate surveillance and driver inattention due to internal and external distractions. According to researchers, humans are good at multitasking, but have a difficult time processing multiple activities while driving. The researchers believe our brain has a limited ability to perceive and respond to multiple threats.

According to cognitive psychologist George Miller, the brain has a limited ability to focus on chunks of information. Mr. Miller's research showed that the mind is only able to grasp around seven bits of information at any given moment and process one or two bits of information. Subsequent research indicates that the mind's capacity to multi-task is even more limited to only 3 to 5 bits of simultaneous bits of information.

Harvard University researchers performed an experiment named "The Invisible Gorilla." The experiment shows the limits of our capacity to perceive and interpret data when confronted with several sources of stimulus. The study participants watched a video of three people dressed in white shirts and three people dressed in black shirts as they passed basketballs among the groups. The study participants were asked to count the number of passes. In the middle of the experiment, a gorilla walked across the screen. However, only half of the participants noticed the gorilla. Essentially, the subjects saw the gorilla but were not able to process multiple bits of information rendering the gorilla invisible. 

The study found that the brain's ability to process information explains why drivers who are texting and driving resemble drunk drivers on driving tests. People understand that taking their hands off the steering wheel or looking away from the road ahead is dangerous, but very few drivers realize that we can drive distracted even though our hands are on the steering wheel. Drivers should also understand that their ability to process information can become overextended, resulting in accidents. These limitations might explain why drivers who are involved in deep thoughts tend to be as distracted as drivers using their cell phones.

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Category: Auto Accidents

Please Note:
All information provided by our blogs is general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Consult a Montlick attorney for details about your unique situation.