Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Legislation considered in several states to stop multitasking pedestrians

It's not that they're walking and chewing gum at the same time that's got legislators riled.  It's that they're walking and using portable multimedia devices at the same time.  From the New York Times:

The ubiquity of interactive devices has propelled the science of distraction — and now efforts to legislate against it — out of the car and into the exercise routine.

In New York, a bill is pending in the legislature’s transportation committee that would ban the use of mobile phones, iPods or other electronic devices while crossing streets — runners and other exercisers included. Legislation pending in Oregon would restrict bicyclists from using mobile phones and music players, and a Virginia bill would keep such riders from using a “hand-held communication device.”

In California, State Senator Joe Simitian, who led a successful fight to ban motorists from sending text messages and using hand-held phones, has reintroduced a bill that failed last year to fine bicyclists $20 for similar multitasking.

“The big thing has been distracted driving, but now it’s moving into other ways technology can distract you, into everyday things,” said Anne Teigen, a policy specialist for the National Conference of State Legislatures, which tracks legislative developments.

. . . .

Hal Pashler, a professor of cognitive science at the University of California, San Diego, said that listening to sounds through two earbuds creates a particularly powerful kind of “auditory masking” that drowns out external sounds. Such masking not only goes directly into the ear, it also is involuntary in the sense that the sound floods the brain even when a person tries to listen to something else — say, traffic.

“It’s even more overwhelming than the kind of multitasking costs we normally talk about,” Mr. Pashler said.

You can read the rest here.


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