Why do people still drive while distracted?

If everyone knows that distracted driving is a problem, why does it keep happening?

It turns out, that many drivers may essentially talk themselves into believing that only other drivers fall prey to distractions -- while justifying their own distracted behavior.

How does that happen? It starts with a fairly common psychological fallacy. First of all, the majority of people -- an incredible 90 percent -- believe that they're better-than-average drivers. That's a statistical impossibility.

The same psychological trick that makes people believe that they're better drivers than most other people is also responsible for making people believe that they -- unlike others -- can multitask well. In reality, almost nobody can actually multitask. Instead, human brains switch rapidly from one task to another, in serial succession. However, each switch back and forth distorts an individual's focus and makes it harder to concentrate.

Because people convince themselves of these two things, they then convince themselves that it's okay to take liberties that they shouldn't take -- and firmly believe other drivers shouldn't do. For example, a common liberty a driver might to take is texting, although only at stoplights. Similarly, he or she might decide it's also okay to switch the radio station, drink coffee, eat lunch and chatter with friends while driving.

The more familiar and mundane the distracting action, the more likely a driver is to "green light" that behavior. The familiarity of the action and the ease with which a driver can perform a task are key to keeping the multitasking illusion that makes it somehow acceptable.

Unfortunately, even a simple distraction like using the voice command on a phone or switching the music on the radio can actually cause a person's mind to have difficulty fully focusing on the main task at hand: driving. Studies have shown that it takes 27 seconds before the human brain really gets back up to speed on its main task after a small distraction. That's more than enough time to get into a wreck -- even if someone only ever texts at stoplights.

Until people fully accept the dangers of distracted driving, unnecessary accidents are going to keep happening. If you're in one due to someone else's distracted driving, make sure that you fully consider your legal options as you recover.

Source: edriving.com, "Seven Stages Of Distraction Denial," accessed April 06, 2018

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