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Distracted Driving — The Arrogance of the Supertasker


Are you really a “super-tasker”? Are you willing to risk your safety and the safety of others on the arrogant belief that you are?

Dr. David Strayer (University of Utah) and his associates have conducted very indepth research and testing in the area of distracted driving. Of necessity, a large portion of that research has focused on the human brain’s ability to multi-task and what affect that has on overall quality of cognitive and motor functioning.

Having read some of Dr. Strayer’s research, let me make it easier for you: for almost every single person on the planet, multi-tasking is a myth and the human brain is incapable of achieving it.

Dr. Strayer has looked at the possible existence of “super-taskers” who possess the super human ability to process more than one task at a time. Some of Dr, Strayer’s findings in the search of the mythical:

“Supertaskers have a strikingly remarkable ability to successfully perform two attention-demanding tasks that over 97% of the population cannot perform without incurring substantial costs in performance.”

“Indeed, our studies over the last decade have found that a great many people have the belief that the laws of attention do not apply to them (e.g., they have seen other drivers who are impaired while multitasking, but they themselves are the exception to the rule). In fact, some readers may also be wondering whether they too are supertaskers; however, we suggest that the odds of this are against them.”

So, only a potential 3% of the population may fall into the category of a “supertasker”; while we mere humans comprise 97% of the rest of the population.

In 2010, the National Safety Council estimated that 28% of all accidents, including fatalities, on US highways are the result of drivers using cell phones. Further, it has been estimated that as many as 10% of all drivers during any daylight hour are involved in a cell phone conversation. If there are 125 million drivers on the roads daily, 12.5 million cell phone conversations occur. For each of those 12 million drivers there are a multitude of possible tasks they are trying to deal with in addition to driving, holding a cell phone, listening, talking and processing information in the conversation.

No computer is capable of keeping up with all the logical and objective tasks to which we demand our brains to pay attention. Add to all of these possible distractions, manual processing and brain processing that one thing with which no computer ever has manage – emotional distraction:

  • You left the house after a fight with your wife (sub husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, etc…)
  • You left the house after a fight with your kid.
  • You left the house only to find the garage door opener did not work.
  • You left the house only to remember you left your wallet.
  • You are stuck in traffic that looks like it goes on forever.
  • Someone just cut you off. Someone is tailgating you at 70 mph.
  • You just lost a loved one to death.
  • You are going through a divorce. You have financial problems.

Any one or combination of these any many other emotional distractions add to your inability to process information while tooling down the freeway at high speeds or negotiating bumper to bumper traffic.

So, give yourself a break and do not fall into the “I am a super tasker” trap. Be happy with being a regular human, with limited ability to process information.

Buckle up, turn the phone off, leave the coffee at home, and focus on propelling that 3000 pound car down the road in a safe and concentrated manner.


If you have any doubts about the value of not texting or talking on a cell phone. If you can not conceive of the damage you might cause, watch this video illustrating the very personal costs. Beware; it is not for the faint of heart.

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