Much had been said about texting and driving, the now number one cause for fatal accidents amongst youth. There is less of a discussion about diverted attention when speaking on the phone, even if hands-free. But that too is occasionally addressed in the media. Turns out, and there is plenty of research to support this, that we, humans, are not as skilled as we would like to believe; we do not multitask well. Our brain, male and female alike, wasn’t wired that way. But all this aside, I would like to share another incident which demonstrates the fault of our cognitive capabilities.
Standing at a red light, my phone connected to my car’s Bluetooth speaker system, I speed-dialed a number. While still waiting for the light to change, the call was connected and I was put on hold. When the call was answered by a human voice, I found myself pressing the gas pedal, starting to drive. I was likely one second away from a fatal accident; a car passed in front, missing me by mere inches. I continued to drive, quite shocked by the experience, ending the phone call, and then trying to process what just happened.
There were two possibilities – 1. I was actually driving fine – starting to go forward when the light had changed to green. It’s the other driver, whom I am not even sure noticed me entering the junction, that was speeding up in a red light. 2. It is also possible that a switch in my mind flipped on, and when my phone call was taken off hold, my brain translated it as “Green, go!” The thought that this is what just transpired, freaked me out.
It is impossible for me to know what really took place. All that I know for certain is that I am alive and no accident occurred. I would also like to believe that it was option #1 as the other car was driving very fast, much like someone trying to make the light before it changes. Yet, even if it was option #1, it’s very likely that if I wasn’t on the phone I would have noticed that car coming and would not have started despite having a green light. Thus, option #1 means that even though I was not breaking the law – I was speaking on the phone hands-free, my attention was not fully invested in my driving. Option #2 means that something different than our inability to multitask took place; it means a switch had gone wrong in the brain. With that being said, that mistake was less likely to occur without multitasking.
It reminded me of another incident, somewhat similar, though not risky. I was in the bathroom one evening, and found myself switching the light off instead of closing the running water… Same sort of interchanging mistake. Whether this is a sign of things to come with age, or just, infrequent as this happened, a likely outcome of an overloaded mind, I do not know. Yet the car incident reminded me how fragile life is and how quickly it can end; at the speed of a changing traffic light.
Learned from: a near accident incident.