Whad He Say?

Task Saturation. It is an impressive phrase meant to describe being too busy to take on a new task and manage it effectively.

About every time an airplane lands the tower controller will issue taxi instructions to the pilots during the most physically demanding part of the landing. We hardly ever comprehend what is said. It would have just fine to get the instructions before landing but they dont want to bother us till we are trying to turn a hundred ton tricycle with wings  back into a ground vehicle. The transformation can be tricky.

We hear all the time about people smashing thier car while talking on a cell phone.  This happens for more than one reason.

The first is that there is an obvious juggling act required to hold a phone with one hand and drive with the other. Since just about everybody uses thier dominant hand to hold a telephone,  they are driving with the non-dominant hand. This can add up to a simple physical challenge if  an unexpected opportunity to demonstrate some driving skill should arise.  Not usually overwhelming but it is enough to take away what otherwise might have been a slim margin of performance.

The second and more profound challenge talking while driving presents is mental. This will occur with a “hands free”  phone as much as any other. Driving, like most activities that require skill, is not an evenly distributed challenge. For the most part it really doesn’t require much in the way of thinking. When a challenge arises it often comes up quickly. It seems that we are not nearly as able to shift gears if we are having a conversation already.

Really complex physical skills like playing the violin, landing an airplane with gusty winds, or steering clear of a crazy woman in  a Suburban will completely dump the part of your short term memory responsible for speech. It stands to reason that if  a complex task will override speech skills then talking might impair the ability to perform tasks.

Ask anybody who is playing the violin a simple question. Any answer you might get is likely to be short or weird. A few seconds later the violinist will make a mistake. This is an example of task saturation.

Be careful out there, a large percentage of drivers are on the phone. Many of them are distracted by kids in the car. Many of them are kids. Many are drunk. Way too many are drunk kids, distracted by kids in the car, and on the phone.


One Response to “Whad He Say?”

  1. And eating. And looking for change to put in the toll thing. And distracted by the sun and by ugly cars and billboards and things. It’s a wonder we ever make it anywhere without wrecking really.

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