I have written many times about the cognitive biases which plague us and make it difficult for us to make good choices. Knowing about them is imperative if we are going to deal with them. We would always be wise to factor in confirmation bias (and other biases) when performing analysis and making decisions. Unfortunately, we all tend to share a “bias blind spot” — the inability to recognize that we suffer from the same cognitive distortions that plague other people. That common failing is well illustrated by some new research released yesterday.
Texting and driving is very dangerous. An experiment by Car and Driver showed that drivers who texted while driving were much more impaired than when they we driving drunk. Per the magazine: “In our test, neither subject had any idea that using his phone would slow down his reaction time so much. Like most folks, they think they’re pretty good drivers. Our results prove otherwise, at both city and highway speeds.” Numerous studies of various types confirm this danger, which should be obvious. Indeed, new data released yesterday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show 3,092 deaths from distraction-affected crashes in 2010 alone and many more injuries.
Yet despite the obvious risks, all the public criticism and new legal bans across the country, now effective in 35 states, texting by drivers just keeps increasing, especially among younger motorists (this data comes from a new survey conducted by NHTSA). More than half of all drivers believe that using a cell phone and or sending a text message/e-mail makes no difference on their driving performance, yet as passengers, 90% said they would feel very unsafe if their driver was talking on a handheld cell phone or texting/e-mailing while traveling with them.
That is the bias blind spot at work.
Please — believe the data and not your (biased) intuition. Don’t text and drive.