It's official: Only a talented few can talk on a cell phone and drive safely.
We now have the results of a study showing that 97.5 percent of us can't drive safely while talking on a cell phone — even a hands-free phone!
The researchers concluded this after assessing the performance of 200 people who tried to navigate a simulated freeway while talking on a hands-free phone. Performance was measured in braking, reaction time, following distance, memory and math execution.
Of course, math execution can be difficult under any conditions. I, for one, haven't executed much serious math since high school, especially while trying to drive.
Nonetheless, the test conclusively demonstrated that, for the vast majority of people, performance suffered both in regard to driving and the assigned tasks. Braking time increased by 20 percent, while following distances increased by 30 percent.
The researchers also were clever enough to note the biggest problem with this experiment: Most people will simply assume they are in the 2.5 percent who can successfully drive and talk on a cell phone.
Realistically, though, the odds are that we fall into the larger category. Most of us would be better off doing one thing at a time, driving, talking on the phone or doing algebra problems.
In fact, a great deal of research reveals that just about any kind of multi-tasking is difficult. Whenever we try to do two things at once, we usually do both poorly.
Trying to drive and do anything else that distracts us from driving is among the most common -- and dangerous -- forms of multitasking. Another is students who try to do a variety of things while they do their homework.
I have found, however, that there are any number of things that shouldn't be attempted at the same time. Here are a few:
Don't try to read a newspaper and pet your cat at the same time. Cats have a natural desire to get between you and your newspaper and to lie on top of the newspaper whenever possible, especially if you are trying to read it.
Don't try to watch a football game while discussing household finances with your spouse. You are likely to both miss big plays and unwittingly promise not to spend so much money on beer.
Don't try to do a crossword puzzle while melting butter on the stove. It is almost inevitable that you will forget about the butter for a minute as it turns black and begins to smoke. You also are likely to write that "Klnppt" is the capital of Finland.
Don't try to measure and saw a piece of wood while yelling at your children. This is a surefire return trip to the lumber store.
Don't try to eat a chocolate bar and take clothes out of the dryer at the same time.
Go ahead and try reading in bed, but it will be fruitless about half the time. You'll fall asleep after three pages and have to re-read those pages the next night. Just before you fall asleep again.
Don't wipe your eyes while chopping jalapeno peppers.
Don't do your tax returns while trying to watch the Masters.
Those are just a few of the instances where multi-tasking is unlikely to produce positive results. I'm sure you can think of more.
Remember that chances are very slim that you are among the 2.5 percent of highly skilled people who can do two difficult things at once. And you just might be among the few who can't walk and chew gum at the same time.
So, concentrate on one task at a time, especially driving. It's better than getting jalapeno juice in your eyes.