As a driver, it is important to understand all potential risks associated with driving. Many of these risks come in the form of various distractions.
Inattentional blindness is a specific form of driver distraction that causes many problems because it is reflexive, and drivers do not have much control over it. What exactly is it, and why is it so harmful to drivers?
The original intent of inattentional blindness
APA discusses inattentional blindness. This essentially works as a mental form of defense and focus, which reflexively allows the mind to spend all of its energy, attention and effort on one single thing to the exclusion of everything else. It likely evolved in a time when humans were not at the top of the food chain and needed more of an edge to get away from predators and dangerous situations.
It also helps out sometimes in daily life. For example, a surgeon who is able to focus on surgery to the exclusion of distractions around them will have an easier and more successful time working in a hectic emergency room setting.
The problems with driving blind
But drivers need to have the ability to spread their attention to multiple dangers at the same time. Multitasking is a life-saving and important thing for any driver, as it allows them to survey different points of risk at the same time and react to them all at once.
One slip with this attention division could lead to a crash, such as focusing too much on the speedometer and missing that the traffic light ahead has already turned red. Having awareness of this phenomenon is the first step in acting against it.