Review by Lindsey Byrd
University of West Florida
Technology has been a part of the Millennial Generation; the generation that has had communication at their fingertips. A Deadly Wandering focuses on the science of attention and Reggie Shaw’s life-altering decision that caused lives to change and a nation to take notice.
It was dark and snowflakes were beginning to fall as Reggie navigated a stretch of road he had driven countless times before. He was in the midst of a text exchange with a friend. He did not notice that he was over the center line until it was too late. Reggie recounts the story of what happened the morning of September 22, 2006. “My car pulled to the left and I met another car in the middle. We clipped each other, and he spun out behind me. The truck and trailer behind me then T-Boned him and they ended up in a ditch (p. 19).” While being questioned about the accident, Reggie continued to text message, which concerned law enforcement. He insisted he had hydroplaned. He held firm to this belief for two years as neuroscientists and law enforcement searched for reasoning behind the drifting in lanes that cost two men their lives.
While law enforcement diligently worked on outlining the events of the accident, Neuroscientist Dr. Gazzaley, explains the cocktail effect in regards to the study of attention. “There’s an illusion that you have the whole field of attention. The reality is that you can focus your attention on one very specific thing, not everything in your field of vision. This can be interpreted two ways: it shows you can control and focus your attention. It also shows how hard it is to spread your attention. It is more like a laser than an overhead light (p. 62).
People everywhere are influenced by the power of social connection. Text messages alone prove “the need to stay in touch with friends, family, and business connections (p. 146).” In 2004, 56 billion text messages were sent in the United States. By 2009, the number had reached 783 billion (ofcom). Traveling at 55 mph, the average text takes eyes off the road for the length of a football field (CDC).
It took two years, several court proceedings, and an ultimate plea deal for Reggie to realize his lack of attention caused the accident. His revelation came when hearing Dr. Strayer, a specialist in distracted driving and the science of attention, explain the texting effect. “After you’ve pushed “send,” and you’re waiting for a response, fifteen or twenty seconds may pass before you’re fully back and have regained your sense of all vehicles around you (p. 275).”
Advisors can use the information provided within this book to be diligent with correspondence between students, colleagues, and family members. Check student schedules before sending text message reminders or emails. Refrain from sending messages or emails when they may be commuting to and from class. Advisors have to be good at time management as multi-tasking is often required. However, let Reggie’s story serve as a reminder that there is a specific time and place for certain tasks.
A Deadly Wandering (2014) by Matt Ritchel. Harper Collins. 416 pp., $15.99, (Paperback), ISBN: 978-0-06-228407-5