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Multi-tasking ability changes with age?

I was driving somewhere recently, and got to thinking about distracted driving, coupled with individual multi-tasking.

When I was in my 20’s, I could watch TV; read a book; and talk to someone, and keep up with it all. This used to really bug my family.

Now, instead of multi-tasking on three tasks, I think I can only handle 1.5 or so. That is, when the driving is tough, I prefer that people in the car not talk to me, and no talk shows on the radio. if there is no one around me, such as on rural Interstate away from other cars, I can handle it.

So, at 70, I don’t think it’s a good idea for me to use a phone in the car while driving, but when I was young it would not have been a problem.

The problem is, how do you make a law, if you must, so it covers people of different levels of multi-tasking ability? We tend to use the lowest denominator as the standard. I suppose we must trust, ahem, people to use their own judgement about their own abilities, though that doesn’t seem to be working too well for a lot of people.

Yep, Jack Nicklaus said he could still hit a good ball, but not a good round, as he aged. His concentration skills just weren’t up to it.

AND, not just multi-tasking gets harder with age, But the ‘‘quick succession tasking’’ that is normal on any driving day becomes a problem. Then the senior driver has great trouble performing what you and I see as ‘‘normal’’ driving functions.

The quick succession of fast paced multiple descisions in a row neccessary to navigate a rush hour four-lane and keep up with the pace.
this lane
that lane
change lanes ??
what’s that car doing …and that one !!
What’s going on now ? When’s it my turn ?
I missed my turn !! now what ?

My 83 year old dad sold his motorcycle this year and will stick with just the car beacause he realized his cognition slow down could be dangerous now.

Too many don’t recognize their own slowness and refuse to admit it.
That’s where family and friends need to intervene.

I’m one who will probably get bit in the butt by my own efficiency of quick tasking.
But I’m ready.
I hope I’m not so self righteous as to not admit that I can’t do it that way anymore.

Can many people multitask effectively when they drive? Sure! And , if they were playing Wii, you could get a pretty good score , say 95%, talking on the phone while doing it. The difference is that high score is still never be perfect and instead of a viewed cartoon crash on the screen just one time or so in twenty, some one actually dies if you do the same thing in a real car.

Now that 95% score of not crashing EVERYTIME you actually drive, doesn’t look good enough. That means there is a greater than 65% (1-(.95)^20) chance that at least one crash will ocurr every twenty times you drive. Now, riding with a texting person doesn’t seem like a good idea.

The ability to multitask varies greatly. I had a buddy in college who could do homework, watch the news on TV and eat lunch at the same time.

We took a 4 month trip to Europe after graduation, and he read the map, read the tourist book and the local newspapers as I drove.

My multitasking skills are considerable less. However the law has to deal with the majority of drivers, so talking on the phone while driving significantly readuces an average driver’s ability to concentrate and react.

Mt wife has a friend who talks a lot while driving and often misses turnoffs or drives by her destination.

If young people are so good at multitasking, why are so many of them the cause of accidents while texting and driving? I do agree that we slow down as we age and that multitasking is more difficult, but it appears that no matter how good you are at multitasking, or how young and quick you are, texting and driving don’t mix, period.

I was watching a news report yesterday about the very lenient punishments given to people responsible for the death of others because of texting and driving, much like drunk drivers were treated 40+ years ago. 40 days in jail and 18 months probation for vehicular manslaughter while testing seems to be the norm. One girl killed a jogger while surfing the internet and driving and got no jail time.

Heres a real brain teaser for you. Some lawmakers look at the statistics and see that teenagers are responsible for the bulk of these accidents. Their conclusion, teenagers don’t have enough driving skills to text and drive at the same time, so they want to outlaw testing and driving for teens only. Talk about a politician being out of touch with reality.

@keith Young people differ from older ones in that they have less experience and poorer judgement as well as taking more chances. All that testosterone clouds judement. Young female drivers are more cautious and as a result take fewer chances and have fewer accidents than young male drivers.

Driving instructors wil tell you that young drivers have faster reaction and sharper faculties in general. Unfortunately, that does not translate in better driver behavior, except perhaps in the military, where discipline largely dictates bahavior.

In any case, texting and driving impair everyone’s judgement and attention span, some more than others.

Docnick, I understand all that. I think in some small way you missed my point, though your last sentence does indicate that you are much smarter than the politicians. NO ONE should be allowed to text and drive.

I think the reason that it is young people that are responsible for the bulk of these accidents is because us older folks know better. Its that frontal cortex thing. BTW, don’t blame it on testosterone because it seems that females have more of these accidents than the males. That may be because they spend a lot more time texting and talking in general.

@keith Thanks for the response. With respect to female young drivers, they are generally more cautious and don’t drive recklessly. However, they don’t seem to think driving slowly while texting is dangerous. Hence a higher rate of accidents in that category.

On the whole, however, young unmarried male drivers have the highest accident rate. Ask any insurance agent. And that has a lot to do with testoterone, adreneline and all sorts of one- upmanship. I was one of the worst offenders, although I never had an accident related to exhuberant behavior.

Docnick, I fully agree with you, I was just more focused on the texting while driving than driving in general.

With respect to female young drivers, they are generally more cautious and don’t drive recklessly

Ahem, that was true at one time when were young, Times have changed. Many young women drive like fiends, now, and have for quite a few years.

A review. I said when I was young, I could handle 3 tasks each requiring concentration. Now, it is around 1.5. That means if I concentrate on my driving, I can still do okay with those fast change items mentioned above. With a wee bit left over, but not enough for two complete tasks.

And, when a driving situation gets complex, I ask my wife not to talk to me for a while. That gives me a margin to work with if something unexpected happens.

When we are on a long trip, she puts something to eat, on my lap, so I can take a bite without looking down, but only when we are away from all other cars and entrance and exit ramps. I have tried to estimate the buffer, I think it’s like five or ten seconds, maybe more. Until I have that buffer, I simply don’t take a bite. I am never so hungry I can’t wait until I am back in the rural Interstate.

Y’all who live in places like Mass, and NJ may not have that sort of traffic situation, but further south and west in rural areas, traffic count can get pretty spread out at times. It is always necessary to use common sense.

My test, and I have written about this in the past, is how many close calls I have. Any on a trip is over my safety limit, period. If I ever have a close call, something is really wrong.

The first time I have a close call using this eating method will be the last time I eat that way. In fact, this method works so well, if I have a close call, it may be time to stop driving altogether, because it would take a major mess up to have a close call using this method…

irlandes,while not quite to your age level yet I too, cannot handle more then 1.5 things at a time-I hate it when a boss rattles off a list of things to do because I cant do but one at a time.Swallowed my pride a long time ago,when driving comes up I’m the last to volunteer,I consider practically anyone a better driver then myself.Even though my driving record is very good,I figure the law of averages will catch me sooner or later,I have a hard time staying awake,most of the time I will pull off and take a 5-10 minute nap,then I’m good to go,but the bosses didnt seem to like it. I just hope to drive safely the rest of my career-Kevin

Thanks, Kevin. Good posting.

I set high standards for myself, mostly based on zero close calls per trip, with trip being maybe several thousand miles, including Mexican highways.

That is, I keep safe only by hard work and concentration as best I can, which is still 1.5 as we agree.

As far as sleepy, I have developed ways of dealing with that.

First, I put 600 ml bottles of sugar free, caffeine laden pop, usually the cheap stuff from Wal-mart, within reach while I drive, and that is all I drink on the road.

But, for this to work, I avoid drinking caffeine at other times, so I am sensitive to it as possible.

As I have gotten older, I choose to drive only around 500-550 miles a day, which avoids stressful long days. (And, it gets me off the road before the corrupt cops start pulling over out of state cars without probable cause.)

So, the caffeine tends to keep me alert all day.

But, over the 250,000 miles I have driven since I retired, I also noted that FOR ME, if I chew something vigorously it wakes me up fast. Not sure if that is a common thing, but it works for me.

So, I keep Trident or similar gum in the console, and if I start feeling sleepy, I tell my wife, and she unwraps two sticks and puts them in my hand so I can pop them in my mouth. Usually, in a short time I am alert again.

I was somewhat nervous this October trip to the States, and from McAllen to Florida. I tend to fall asleep unexpectedly in front of my computer, and I thought I was going to die on a long trip. But, these means kept me alert up to 12 hours a day. And, I think the entire trip was zero close calls.

Texting while driving is probably the MOST dangerous non-alcoholic thing you can do behind a wheel. While yes in less traffic it lessons the chances of getting in an accident…but it doesn’t mean that the person texting is driving safely. Very rural areas - the cops will still pull you over if you weaving in and out of a lane (which I see every day - caused by someone texting).

@irlandes–I am one year older than you are and have trouble even handling one task at a time.
I do have a “blue tooth” in one of my vehicles, but I still would rather not talk to someone and drive at the same time–it’s a distraction. I also find the radio in the car a distraction, particularly if I’m listening to a musical composition that I like.

When making laws to protect the public, it’s absolutely necessary to use the “lowest common denominator”.

Re: the young drivers, the can’t drive safely while multitasking either…they just haven’t learned it yet.

As to young men having far more accidents…they do far more of the driving. And they do much of it while while distracted by the young woman next to them.
Ah, sweet memories…Kathy, where are you now?

I resent anyone saying that as we age we are less able to Multi task…what was the question anyhow ??? I forgot.

I’ve finally come to the point were I can see,I’m a bit different from other Folks and a lot of my abilities are being comprimised as I get older.I believe some of the young hoots who dont know what pain is will be unpleasently suprised as the scars mount up and they grow older.I’ll be the first to admit(my former bosses didnt seem to think so) I cant work like a 21 year old anymore and my thought processes seem to run about .5 seconds behind everyone else.But God still loves me and I will do my best and try to stay out of the young Lions waay-Kevin

Driving itself is multitasking, IMHO.

Reminds me of this question to C&C:

Sounds like Gayle’s hubby is correctly recognizing his limitations…