Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Can you really multi-task?

The following article was written by my good friend Scott Marshall. I re-post many of his articles because of his vast experience as a driving instructor for Young Drivers of Canada and he has an excellent way of relating information. You can follow him on Twitter @safedriver and follow his blog at http://safedriving.wordpress.com/

How many things can you do at one time? We often hear about people who can do more than one thing at a time; multi-tasking. I’m always so busy that I sometimes wish I had more arms so I could do more tasks. Instead of that, I delegate some of the tasks that need to be done. Can we delegate as a driver, or do we need to multi-task?

We all know that driving takes a lot of concentration and that distracting our concentration can lead to huge problems. We sometimes fool ourselves into believing we can do many things at once. The things we do regularly have become a habit in most cases, so we don’t need to think about them too often. For example; accelerating while steering can be done at the same time, but that’s mainly because you’re used to doing it. Dealing with other drivers is where the problem comes in.

I often do a little exercise with my students while I’m teaching in the classroom at Young Drivers of Canada. I ask them to do “patty-cake” with either the person beside them or their kneecaps. They follow a pattern and have to do it in unison with everyone else. They all seem to find it quite easy to do. The next part of my experiment is to say the alphabet… backwards. This takes complete thought. It’s not a habit for them to do it that way and they struggle with it. Once they’ve finished that, they have to combine the exercises and do the “patty-cake” and the alphabet backwards. The reality of this is they can’t do it. I witness my students slowing their “patty-cake” to think of what comes next in the alphabet.

This exercise proves to them that their mind will only allow them to consciously do one thing at a time. They had to slow their thought process to make other choices. Does this sound familiar with driving a vehicle? We often hear how difficult it is for some drivers to talk on their cell phone while driving. It’s absolutely true, but they keep doing it. The other day I was driving behind another driver who was driving very slowly. It was a little frustrating, but I knew it was only for a few seconds so I didn’t let it bother me. Once I passed the driver, I noticed they were on their cell phone. They had a difficult time driving safely and talking on their phone. In other words; they couldn’t multi-task.

Driving takes full concentration, so you need to stay focused on your driving and eliminate other thought provoking activities. Driving while being angry can lead to crashes. Have you ever argued with someone while driving? I wonder how many red lights or stop signs you ran because your mind was on something else.

Keep your mind on your driving so you can drive collision free. Sometimes it’s better to walk, stop then chew!


  1. As someone who, when I was yonger, was prone to arguing or fighting with my mom in the car, I bore witness to the amount of errors she made, one being running a stop sign at a busy intersection.
    I learned a lot about driving behaviour from watching my mother and find passengers to be extremely distracting for me, especially if there are upset or talking too much.
    I will miss exits and streets due to me having to think of replies rather than processing where I'm going.

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