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Can the brain handle multiple tasks while driving?

On Behalf of | Apr 10, 2020 | Car Accidents

Distracted driving contributes to many car accidents and related injuries and deaths every year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2018, distracted driving accidents claimed 2,841 lives.

Many drivers believe they can safely talk on the phone, text, eat, change the radio, search for items in their back seat and engage in other tasks as they operate a vehicle. However, this is dangerous because the brain will divide its concentration between the different activities going on while you drive.

What happens when you multitask

When you focus on a singular task, the prefrontal cortex in your brain ignites and splits incoming information from the activity between the right and left side. These two sides work together to help the brain engage and complete the task. If you perform two tasks at one time, each side of your brain works independently of the other, dividing its concentration.

When you multitask while driving, your brain has a difficult time processing the different signals it receives. As a result, your brain will divide driving and the other activity between the two frontal cortexes. This minimizes your concentration and makes it harder to pay attention to the road.

Some tasks are easier to do simultaneously than others

Watching television and eating, or checking email while listening to a podcast, for example, are both activities you can do relatively easily at the same time because they require minimal concentration. This same principle does not apply to driving because the prefrontal cortex of the brain engages heavily when you drive a car.

When you multitask, the brain is not as efficient or as effective at processing the signals it receives from your environment, increasing the likelihood of mistakes and issues, especially while driving. This is why it is so important for you to focus only on driving when you are behind the wheel.