Multitasking Can Be Deadly, But Is Your Driving School Clueless?

By Joe Pruskowski

For many people who have grown up in the digital age it is an accepted practice for them to multitask. However, what they may not realize is that when multitasking while driving it becomes a deadly decision for a wide variety of people.

Oddly, many driving schools do not cover the dangers of distracted driving. Worse, sometimes the media promotes the ability of people to multitask. Instead, a topic that the media could advocate is how drivers education programs should include information about the dangers of multitasking while driving. Unfortunately, most drivers education courses are dated, have not changed in years and do not even discuss the multitasking.

The term multitasking may not be familiar to people who don’t understand techie jargon which also means that many driving course instructors have no idea that some drivers are going to try multitasking. Research has shown that the brain can handle just one task at a time something John Medina addressed in his book, “Brain Rules.” Medina says, “We are biologically incapable of processing attention-rich inputs simultaneously.” That means keeping your hands on the wheel and concentrating on the road is the only safe way to drive.

A problem with the term multitasking is that many people get it mixed up with multiprocessing. Multiprocessing as defined means to do multiple tasks at the same time. Multitasking — performing only one task at a time while rapidly switching between tasks — gives the illusion of multiprocessing. However, what people are not grasping is that the brain is constantly changing gears to move to the other tasks, leaving behind the current task whenever it makes that switch.

Since it is so confusing to separate these two terms you can understand why these topics are not being addressed. However, by not changing to keep up with the times schools will continue to educate your teen with the same training you had when you were young which was probably well before the digital age.

Today’s cars are high tech wonders — full of visual distractions including complex audio and entertainment systems, navigation units and paddle shifters. By correctly addressing how to handle contemporary cabin layouts, a decrease in collisions is always a possibility.

Supporting the impact of distracted driving on safety is a study conducted by Virginia Tech. That study revealed that reaching for a moving object can increase your risk of a crash by a factor of 9. You’d think that the academic research and driver’s ed communities would work hard on getting this information out. However, these two communities are generally not in communication with each other which means the typical school’s driving lessons do not reflect that data.

At my institution, SWERVE Driving School, we incorporate the latest research findings including what is found in the Virginia Tech study. As a parent, you can help educate your teen about the dangers stemming from attempting to multitask while driving and work with educators who will affirm your stance.


Virginia Tech: Transportation Institute Releases Findings on Driver Behavior and Crash Factors


  1. Bruce says

    I agree. Multi-tasking is a misnomer. We’re really being asked to do multi-processing. Trying to multi-task means you’re doing probably doing 2 things poorly. This isn’t so bad if you’re walking and chewing gum, although even that can be problematic for some, but when you add in a more complex task like driving it’s a whole new ballgame.

  2. Dave says

    Great article on a real problem in driver safety today. I see so many drivers on the phone, texting, or looking at something going on in the car instead of concentrating on their driving. And my car is full of gadgets that are so distracting that I have to have a co-pilot to manage them.

  3. Hannah says

    Wow how many collisions could be avoided if more people got this concept. Common sense rules of the road need to be taught too.

    Thanks for this insight!!

  4. Rick says

    Fantastic article…. I see it everyday in the commute (and have even caught myself being pulled away from giving full attention to my driving). It makes sense to teach in Driving School!