A Driver’s Sixth Sense is Important
According to an extensive study conducted by the University of Houston and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, drivers have a sixth sense that keeps them safe even if they are emotional or absent-minded while driving. The study determined that emotional and cognitive distractions made study participants drive safer. The study also found that the sixth sense was not present when drivers texted and operated a motor vehicle. The reasoning behind this finding suggested that texting breaks the driver’s eye-hand coordination, eliminating the sixth sense.
According to Ioannis Pavlidis, director of the Computational Physiology Laboratory at the University of Houston who led the study,
“What makes texting so dangerous is that it wreaks havoc into this sixth sense. Self-driving cars may bypass this and other problems, but the moral of the story is that humans have their auto systems that work wonders until they break,”
As part of the study, fifty-nine subjects had to drive four times along the same section of the highway, each time under a different set of conditions. Under “normal” conditions, the drivers had no distractions, focussing only on their driving. Other requirements included being distracted by questions that represented a mental challenge or issues of an emotional charge. The subject drivers were also exposed to texting while driving.
The Role of the Sixth Sense and Driving
The research found that drivers who were subjected to distractions including the emotional and texting conditions were more jittery at the wheel. Mr. Pavlidis explained that a part of the brain kicks in when there is a conflict. In the case of this study, the emotional, distracted and texting caused conflict for the drivers. The participating drivers were able to drive better because of the anterior cingulate cortex or ACC. This allowed drivers to drive better despite the distractions. Where the ACC was not useful was when it came to texting and driving. The ACC is dependent on hand-eye coordination and with texting, the ACC was affected, preventing the participating drivers to handle the task, resulting in the drivers steering off-course. As a result of the findings, it was determined that texting is the most dangerous driving distraction.The complete study can be found in the Journal Nature at http://www.nature.com/nature/index.html