Hergott: Inattention blindness behind the wheel

Hergott: Inattention blindness behind the wheel

Lawyer Paul Hergott writes about drivers who let their mind wander only to cause a collisoin.

The driver was not looking down, dialing the phone or texting. Witnesses say she was looking straight ahead out the windshield, talking on her cell phone.

She continued on at highway speed past four cars and a school bus that had come to a stop in the next lane, for the red light that she also faced.

She t-boned a vehicle, killing the 12-year-old passenger.

How, looking straight ahead through the windshield, could she have failed to notice the red light? Road safety researchers call this a classic case of “inattention blindness.”

Each of us has experienced it.

How many times have you missed a turn-off?

You blew by that turn-off just like the lady blew through the red light. The only difference was that your inattention blindness didn’t kill anyone.

Did you shrug it off? No big deal, you just missed a turn-off?

Don’t fool yourself. That missed turn-off was the “tip of the iceberg” of things you failed to process in the roadway environment.

Had you not missed the turn-off, requiring you to turn around to get back on track, you would not have even clued in about your lack of road awareness.

As one study put it, your self awareness of how much of the roadway environment you were failing to process was “similar to the fictional cartoon character Mr. Magoo, who was blithely unaware of his driving impairments.”

There are all sorts of things that might occupy your conscious thoughts while you are driving, leading to varying levels of inattention blindness.

It takes actual effort to maintain constant, direct attention to the roadway ahead of you. If you don’t, your mind will wander. As it wanders, you will miss processing things even though you are looking straight through the windshield.

I came up with a mechanism to keep my own mind from wandering while driving. I call it “doing the ten-and-two.” I use my hand positioning as an attentiveness alarm.

Current wisdom says that other positions are safer because of air bags, i.e. “8 and 4” or “9 and 3,” but it doesn’t matter what you choose.

If your hands wander to more comfortable places like resting at the bottom of the steering wheel or one elbow on an arm rest, that’s the attentiveness alarm going: “Your mind is wandering!”

Since implementing “the ten-and-two” for myself, I don’t have the “close calls” that I used to have.

Cell phone use while driving is a special kind of cause of inattentive blindness. That’s not dialing or texting. It’s simply talking on the phone, with your eyes looking out your windshield. It is estimated that drivers using cell phones look but fail to see up to 50 percent of the information in their driving environment (April, 2012 “White Paper” published by the National Safety Council (United States).

Most people, like Magoo, are blithely unaware of the 50 percent they are failing to process. They don’t have a clue about how dangerous they are being. They think “I’m capable of multi-tasking. I’m looking out the windshield. I’ve never caused a crash. I’m safe.”

Everyone thinks that texting is the problem. Texting is definitely a problem, but quoting from the 2012 White Paper: “…in 2010, an estimated minimum of 160,000 crashes involved texting or emailing, versus 1.1 million crashes involving talking on cell phones.”

Why? Everyone knows that it’s dangerous to take your eyes off the road. That awareness leads to less texting and in less dangerous road conditions.

Those chatting away on their hands free cell phones are blithely unaware of the danger. They think that they’re looking through the windshield so it must be safe. This leads to much more frequent use of cell phones while driving and no precautions taken to limit the risk.

Please don’t be like Mr. Magoo. Stop talking on your cell phone while driving, hand held or hands free — there’s no difference in the level of distraction. And how about joining me in taking an active step forward in attentiveness by “doing the ten-and two?”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A COVID-19 exposure has been confirmed at Black Mountain Elementary in Kelowna Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. (Google Image)
Another COVID-19 exposure confirmed at Kelowna school

Interior Health confirmed an exposure at Black Mountain Elementary School Saturday

Members of BCEHS Station 343 in Lake Country receive a donation of treats and wine from the community in December. (Contributed)
‘Unexpected and heartwarming’: Okanagan community supports paramedics

Cards, discounts, treats, more given to Lake Country paramedics in sign of support

Okanagan Indian Band Chief Byron Louis has served as the band’s chief since his first of six electoral wins in 1991. (File photo)
Okanagan Indian Band seeks nominations for upcoming election

A new OKIB chief and council will be elected March 30, 2021

An individual at Rutland Senior Secondary school has tested positive for COVID-19. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)
Individual at Kelowna school tests positive for COVID-19

Authorities say they are self-isolating at home with support from local health teams

Flooding has become a reality for many communities in the Okanagan Valley as the region faces more extreme weather storms, blamed on the impact of climate change. (File photo)
Okanagan high target for spring flooding

Higher snowpack and mild winter precipitation levels raise concerns for Canada’s insurance industry

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

(Hal Brindley - Dreamstime)
Enderby farmers caught between coyotes and bylaw tickets

The Smith family is stuck in a Catch-22 between protecting their livestock and incurring noise complaints

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

The North Okanagan Naturalists' Club completed its annual swan and eagle counts Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021. (Claude Rioux - NONC photo)
North Okanagan bird count shows decrease in swan and eagle numbers

Trumpeter swans were down 61 per cent from last year’s count; eagles down 14 per cent

Lake Country firefighters helped deliver a healthy newborn baby Thursday, Jan. 21, 2020. (Pixabay)
Lake Country firefighters help deliver baby boy

Firefighters from the Winfield hall assisted with the birth of a healthy newborn Thursday morning

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Skaha Middle School
Arrest made in indecent acts near South Okanagan schools

A 32-year-old man was arrested and released on strict conditions, say police

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Most Read