Bothered by people who text or talk on the phone while driving? Of course you are. But how distracted are they? John Senders attempted to quantify how much attention driving actually requires. According to this interview in the Globe,
But long before text was a verb, back when technological temptations were limited to tuning the radio or fiddling with the heat, one man began a visionary quest to figure out how much attention was consumed by driving. In the mid-1960s, John W. Senders, a scientist at Bolt Beranek and Newman in Cambridge, drove into midday traffic on I-495 in a 1965 Dodge Polara, wearing a motorcycle helmet. The visor, its mask sandblasted into an opaque shield, was rigged to a pneumatic tube and periodically flipped down over his eyes. With the visor down, cars, lane markers, medians -- everything but light -- were completely invisible. Senders could see nothing, until he triggered the visor to lift for a fraction of a second. And that was the point.
In Dr. Senders's own, succinct words:
I was trying to find out how much attention is required for just driving down the road, because what's left over could be construed as the safe reserve that you might have if something unusual came up.
John Senders won the 2011 Ig Nobel Public Safety Prize for his experiments. Here is a video showing Dr. Senders and his Distract-O-Visor in action:
The author is solely responsible for the content.
Welcome to Miss Conduct’s blog, a place where the popular Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams and her readers share etiquette tips, unravel social conundrums, and gossip about social behavior in pop culture and the news. Have a question of your own? Ask Robin using this form or by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.