Do you multitask behind the wheel?

Let your smartphone help you stay focused
by Tracy Carpena | Nov 8, 2013

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Imagine this scenario: You\'re late for a meeting. You rush to your car while you send an SMS to everyone at the meeting that you\'re running late. It\'s rush hour, and you pin your hopes on your smart phone\'s MMDA app and Waze to avoid gridlock hell and get you to your destination in the shortest possible time. You reply to your colleagues\' SMS. You take calls. The pressure of being late combined with the stress of traffic takes its toll on you, so you decide to entertain yourself, as if the in-car stereo is not enough: You take your phone again, take a photo of yourself and share the photo on social media. May your friends forgive you for another #selfiemorning.

This rush hour scene involves using the cellphone--specifically a smartphone--behind the wheel. Everybody knows the risks of texting while driving, yet most people still do it. Could it be that you\'ve overestimated your ability to multitask while driving? If you think you\'re an expert multitasking driver, you have to read on. If you think you can be awarded \"Best in texting-while-driving,\" we have to avoid sharing the road with you.

Here\'s why.

A recent study by University of Utah researchers examined the relationship between (1) people\'s perception of their ability to multitask, (2) their actual ability to multitask, and (3) the likelihood that people would use their cellphone while driving. The study found out that people who were competent at multitasking were less likely to engage in performing multiple tasks at once. Its results also showed that people who thought that they could multitask effectively were actually worse at it. Unfortunately, the study also reported that the people who perceived themselves as competent in multitasking--but in reality less capable at it--were more likely to use their cellphones while driving. The full manuscript of the open-access, peer-reviewed research article involving 310 participants is available here.

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You may argue that a population of 310 doesn\'t give us a sound conclusion, but it\'s not wise to refute the study\'s findings by continuing your texting-while-driving habit. Trying to disprove it might cost you your life, and the safety of your passengers and the people sharing the road with you.

If you\'ve tried to stay away from your phone while driving by keeping it inside a bag or putting it in silent mode, we laud you for your efforts. If these crude techniques failed, worry not. Thank the tech people who have devised ways to help you focus on your driving duty while your phone takes care of incoming messages and calls.

BlackBerry users may get BKU Software\'s SafeDrive for $3.99 (P172.50). The app can read aloud incoming text messages and e-mails in real-time with a male or female voice. It also supports multiple languages, and you can manually replay messages. Android units version 2.0 and up come with maps, navigation and car mode. Users of these smartphones are treated to a plethora of car mode apps to complement the built-in features. Users of the iPhone may also opt to get apps that would help them pay attention to driving.

If the available apps still don\'t work, then the future is still looking bright for you, because a new and clever concept may make its way to a popular smartphone. Enter the iPhone car mode concept.

Designed by New York-based Joey Cofone, the concept phone setting is like the Airplane Mode, an integrated feature in the smartphone\'s OS. It can be activated by connecting the phone to the car via Bluetooth. Once the phone is connected, the driver cannot send and view messages, and would not be alerted with notifications when a message arrives. Instead, an auto-reply would notify senders that the user is currently driving. The driver gets to read and send messages only when the car ignition is off. Unlike the Airplane Mode, however, the driver can still use the phone\'s navigation app and can still make hands-free phone calls.

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Mashable has reported that this car-mode concept is still in the early stages of development, and that the designer has not even contacted Apple about incorporating the feature into its smartphones.

Let\'s all make the road safer by refraining from texting while driving and taking selfies while driving. Do you currently use a driving app that helps you focus on the road? Share them with your fellow readers by posting a comment below.

Image from SXC.hu

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