Driving and Inattentional Blindness

Sun, 4/29/2018 - 7:40 pm by Kirsten Rincon

Sometimes, we are not able to perceive an object, a person or an event that is in our field of view. That happens when we are focused on one object in our perceptual field, and something else that we didn’t expect appears in front of us. This is called inattentional blindness and various psychologists have recently started bringing it into correlation with distracted driving.

Distracted driving is one of the most common causes for car accidents. Talking on a cell phone is a common reason for distracted driving, and it often leads to inattentional blindness. This means that if you are talking on your cell phone while driving, you may be looking through the windshield and you think that you are focused on the road, but chances are that you can’t see everything that is going on in front of you even though it’s in your field of view. This is because your brain is focused on the act of talking on the phone, and you can’t see an object that is directly in front of you. A lot of accidents happen because of that. For example, you are driving and talking on the phone at the same time, and a car in front of you starts to slow down or brakes sharply, and although you were looking ahead, you didn’t actually see that the car had stopped, so you end up rear ending it. So, even though many people think that they can multitask, it’s actually pretty difficult to do more tasks at once, and do them well.

While it’s true that we can do multiple tasks at the same time, we can’t do them as efficiently as we would if we only focused on one task at a time. That’s why people need to make sure they are completely focused on the road and what’s happening around them. When you are driving, you have to be aware of the cars in front and behind you, the way they are moving, and be able to notice when someone is braking, accelerating, turning or changing lanes, so that you can react accordingly. If you are distracted because you are doing some other activity at the same time, you won’t be able to perceive the cars, the pedestrians and various objects and events around you, and you are putting yourself and others at risk.

That’s why drivers must never eat, drink, adjust various devices in their cars, or talk on their phones while driving, because all that can cause inattentional blindness, which in turn can result in an accident.