Inattentive Drivers and Selective Attention

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One concept that I felt was exceptionally interesting was selective attention. This is the process of focusing on one stimulus and ignoring everything else, or at least paying very little attention to it. I liked learning about this because everyone does it all the time but no one realizes it until they actually think about it. I think the most common example we see today is people driving while playing with their cell phones. Figure 1 is a picture that shows a woman texting and driving directly towards a family that is standing in the street. This is a perfect example of selective attention because the woman is clearly more focused on planning her evening or something than she is on the important task of not killing people.

Text Kill.jpg

Figure 1

I see drivers doing this all the time, and I find it extremely frustrating. They don't realize that they are in charge of a giant mass that carries a lot of momentum with it and can easily go out of control when one is not paying attention. I usually drive a motorcycle and I'm constantly watching for inattentive drivers. I frequently see people changing lanes without checking their blind spots and swerving around because they are not focusing on driving. One of my friends was recently run off the road while driving his motorcycle by a woman that was talking on the phone. She merged into his lane without looking and never even noticed that she had done anything wrong. While my friend was trying to control the bike, she drove away oblivious that she had done anything wrong. Luckily, he is a great rider and even though the bike was totaled, he walked away from the accident. I know that the government is trying to stop people from texting and car companies are creating alarms to alert people when they aren't paying attention but I wonder if this is enough. People are going to continue to do whatever they want. Selective attention is simply the way our minds work and unless more people realize this, the problem will persist.

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