We have all heard or seen the new PSA’s on texting and driving. It is dangerous, it does require your eyes and your attention to be on something other than the road, but how do you argue with teens that say they don’t care. If you’re the parent of a teen driver, you’ve probably heard their spiel on why they are not worried about it. Either they argue that they are fast when texting, or they don’t stare at their phones, or they only do it at stops. Whatever their excuse is, they have conviction, and yelling at them, may not work in changing their minds or their behavior, so try science.
The American Psychological Association (APA) has coined the phrase ‘inattentional blindness’ as a way to describe the phenomenon of not seeing even the most conspicuous things, if we are not paying direct attention to them. Until recent studies, the concept of inattentional blindness was challenged by everything we knew about vision. The once common belief that, if your eyes are open and you can see, you do see, is no longer completely accurate. The understanding of inattentional blindness is now taking over our belief of perception and what it means to truly see.
As drivers, most of us have probably experienced a startle on the road. Whether a deer or stop sign, we’ve all either used the ‘it came out of nowhere’ excuse, or we know someone that has. Did it come out of nowhere? Chances are, no it didn’t, but our inattentional blindness made it seem that way. Since the danger of inattentional blindness on the road is ever present, what happens when you throw other stimuli, like a cellphone in the mix? Well, it gets worse.
Despite every teen’s best efforts to make the quick text while driving as safe as possible, the phenomenon of inattentional blindness vastly beats those efforts. The knowledge of this risk makes the continued behavior of texting while driving a negligent act that could face serious consequences.