A Terrifying Look at the Dangers of Texting and Driving in “A Deadly Wandering”

Texting and driving is dangerous and irresponsible. Until I read the exceptionally well-written A Deadly Wandering, though, I had no idea how terrifying it truly is. And I say “terrifying” because after you read it, you’ll quickly start noticing how many people around you are messing around on their phones when their eyes should be on the road and their hands should be on the wheel. Even if you never touch your phone while driving, a whole lot of other folks sharing the road with you are.

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Author Matt Richtel bases his book around a tragic true story out of Utah. In 2006, a 19-year-old college student named Reggie Shaw was driving down a narrow road in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains early one rainy September morning. Headed the opposite way were two actual rocket scientists, on their way into work, commuting via their usual route. Shaw’s SUV drifted into their lane, clipping the small sedan they were traveling in, and a large truck hauling a trailer behind Shaw then t-boned them, killing both men instantly. Shaw was unharmed. He’d been texting just before impact.

Back in 2006, before our world was drenched in smartphones like it is today, the science of how our brains handle actions like talking on the phone while driving and texting while driving was still fairly new and evolving. The law was evolving to catch up to the times, as well, which was a tremendous challenge to the people investigating Shaw’s case.

Richtel does a masterful job of balancing the stories of Shaw and the families of the two men killed, along with the hard work of the investigators working on the case, and the incredible scientists trying to uncover just why we’re so attached to our devices that we’ll literally risk our lives and others’ lives for them. The way the book is structured and paced is just perfect, with short chapters that bounce back and forth between covering Shaw, the families, the scientists, and law enforcement.

The science presented in the book is both memorable and scary. Texting and driving makes you six times more likely to crash. Talking on a cell phone while driving makes you four times more likely – about the same as being legally intoxicated. So, yes, texting and driving is worse than driving drunk. (And talking while driving isn’t actually safe, either.)

This book will change your behavior for the better. Read it and ask those you love to do the same.

(Originally published here: http://msbusiness.com/2015/10/book-biz-a-riveting-look-at-the-dangers-of-texting-and-driving/)

A Fun Guidebook, “Welcome to Your Brain” Has Something For Everyone

Is there anything more applicable to each and every one of us than the study of neuroscience? If you’ve ever wondered what’s going on in that head of yours – or, perhaps, what’s going on in the heads of your family, friends, and coworkers – this is the book for you.

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Written by two neuroscientists, Welcome to Your Brain provides an accessible and even fun entry point into what can seem like an intimidating topic. This isn’t some dry, college-level science textbook, however. Think of it more as a map or guidebook to what’s happening in that organ taking up space between your ears. And luckily for us, the authors are gifted writers, turning the complicated into the understandable, while making you laugh along the way.

Structured in six parts, Welcome to Your Brain takes us from the basics of your brain’s composition, to how the brain handles the five senses, to its development in childhood and its changes throughout life and old age. The authors also explore your “emotional” brain, your “rational” brain, and your brain in altered states. Each chapter within the sections contains interesting sidebars, either dispelling myths (no, we don’t only use 10% of our brain) or providing practical tips (such as how, scientifically speaking, to combat jet lag).

Many readers of this book would likely be especially interested in the section and chapters about brain development and the brain’s changes throughout our lives. We probably all want to know how we can best support brain development in young children, while also figuring out how to guard against brain function decay late in life. There’s a lot of societal anxiety, understandably, about both.

You’ll have to read that whole section for all the pertinent information on this, but I’ll say here, for the parents of young children, there’s no actual scientific evidence that playing Mozart for your babies makes them smarter. However, signing them up for piano lessons, for instance, does have a positive effect on brain development. Passive consumption of music does nothing. Instead, have them actually learn to play.

If you’re thinking about the opposite end of things and looking for a magic elixir to stave off mental decline late in life, look no further than physical exercise. That’s the single best way you can support brain health and fight dementia in age. Even older people who take up exercise late in life show mental benefits from it.

This book is filled with information that can help you better understand yourself and those around you. Use your brain and read it.

(Originally published here: http://msbusiness.com/blog/2015/02/12/louann-lofton-check-engaging-guidebook-brain/)