Dr Leanne Savigar-Shaw, Lecturer in Policing, discusses why people multitask when driving and the implications for the Police.
For many of us, it is difficult to keep up with the demands of daily life – to complete all work-related tasks, to provide childcare, to keep up with our social lives, keep up with an exercise regime and still walk the dog at the end of the day. There are so many possibilities for activities in a single day, so much that we feel we must achieve, and yet seemingly so little time in which to achieve it. We feel hurried, under time pressures to complete tasks and consequently, stressed at the thought of it all. Some academics describe this as an acceleration of the pace of life. We might respond by either reducing the amount of time spent on each activity – by cutting the amount of time we spend with relatives, or attending one gym class rather than two. Or we might perform tasks simultaneously, multitasking to achieve more than one outcome within the same amount of time – we might walk the dog and call a friend at the same time.
Another area where multitasking has been observed is within vehicles – performing more than one task when driving to save time or relieve some sense of the pressure associated with this accelerated pace of life. Drivers have been found to use the car as an extension of the office, making phone calls to contact colleagues and clients, to prevent their loss of custom or income through work. Drivers have also been caught contacting family via video call to make the most of their time when so much of it is spent driving as part of their working day. Mobile phone use while driving has been found to increase over recent years, despite the issue of multitasking while driving in this way having the potential to produce significant consequences. Drivers have even been caught performing extremely private acts whilst driving – with the vehicle sometimes perceived as a private space not unlike our own homes. Where we struggle to find time for activities that bring us joy, time spent driving may be increasingly perceived as time wasted; time that we could spend doing those things we enjoy, or making time for those things by performing activities we have to do whilst we are driving.
This has implications for policing – policing of the roads becomes evermore difficult in a society that encourages people to multitask, particularly where time spent driving is perceived to be time ‘wasted’. This is simply one of a multiplicity of sensitives in relation to the policing of the roads – it is perhaps more complex than meets the eye.