A new study from relative newcomer Root Insurance wants to prove what we’ve all suspected these past few months: that we are driving more distractedly. There are few things that raise my suspicions about it.
Obviously, insurance companies have a vested interest in proving the dangers of driving, but a report from NBC News took Root’s study and concluded the accidents are a result of our new reliance on video chatting. The report says Zoom and the like is responsible for these car accidents. Fine. Fair enough.
The thing is that these drivers are not videoconferencing while driving. They’re driving after videoconferencing. NBC claims that driving after a Zoom or FaceTime or Google Meet call is making us crash because drivers are more distracted following these. It strikes me as odd. Here is what NBC claimed about the dangers of picking up you car keys after hanging up a video call:
Moreover, a national consumer survey of 1,819 American drivers shows that 54% of Americans who drive after video chatting report trouble concentrating. When work life became synonymous with home life, COVID-19 created new distractions and challenges for American drivers getting behind the wheel of a car.
The report also claims there’s a greater “risk of cognitive distraction, looking at the road while your thoughts are elsewhere. That zoning out may mean you don’t notice a dangerous situation soon enough to react.” It calls these drivers “Zoom Zombies.” That’s catchy and all, but it’s drawing a weird conclusion.
The funny thing is earlier on, the report mentions that driving skills have atrophied, which seems like a much more likely reason for the crashes. The best way get good at something is practice, and we’ve been driving less this past year.
Many of us are stuck indoors, working online rather than commuting to work. We’ve lost our edge, is all. When you add that to the sheer amount of sensory overload that driving entails, it makes sense that people are getting into bad accidents.
Think about the monotony of working from home, of lockdowns that have kept children out of schools. Cars stuck on driveways. I don’t think I’ve ever been so familiar with the thrum of the A/C system in my home. I’ve never been so in tune with house sounds! Because we need stimuli, but we aren’t used to the sensory overload of driving nearly as much as we were before the lockdowns.
I think when you combine the “risk of cognitive distraction” with atrophied driving skills and the sensory overload of sights and sounds on the road, you get a better account of why we’re crashing so badly.