Journal of Ergonomics

Journal of Ergonomics
Open Access

ISSN: 2165-7556


Smart Phones and Dumb Drivers: The Limits of Cognitive Ergonomics

Paul Altchley

As phones and cars get smarter, drivers seem to get more dumb. Drivers are making choices to engage with communication technology in vehicles more frequently, to the detriment of traffic safety. The National Safety Council estimates that 28% of crashes in the United States are a result of drivers distracted by in car technology. The personal and economic costs of these crashes are staggering, resulting in thousands of ended lives and billions of dollars in costs every year. The benefits of the ability to connect to social networks while driving is less clear. In this complex problem, what role can design and ergonomics play? Improving design to make technology easier to use is one way to reduce the burden new technologies place on us. For example, devices that allow for hands-free use or that read to us rather than take our eyes from the road are touted as ways to allow users to interact with technology, but remain safe. However, our cognitive capacity is finite. We cannot juggle an infinite number of tasks. In fact, we can really only do one thing at once. Design can make each operation easier and thus requiring less time, but each time we switch between a task, there is a cost.�