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What are ‘Zoom Zombies’ and are They Causing More Car Crashes?

Zoom calls have gone from a fun workplace shift to a daily annoyance for many of us. Our commutes went from a morning drive to walking from bed to the desk. As more of us become burnt out Zoom Zombies from hours spent staring at the screen instead of real people, experts say our brains are changing. After hours of Zoom calls, people are getting behind the wheel of their cars, and we see how burnout affects the way we drive. 

A car accident shows several wrecked cars on a residential street in Germany. 2020 showed a major up tick in fatal car crashes and Zoom Zombies may be to blame
Damaged and destroyed vehicles are parked at the cordoned-off accident site in the residential street | Jonas Walzberg/picture alliance via Getty Images

Don’t Zoom Zombie and drive

Zoom is our “new normal” (whatever that means), and we have already become accustomed to this digital world we all wade through. We are aware of how annoyed we are with video calls and the filtered sound of once familiar voices but are we aware that we are slowly turning into Zoom Zombies? Are we losing our ability to concentrate? 

Heavy traffic congestion | Mark Wilson/Getty Images

NBC News reports that experts are starting to draw connections between the digital workplace and “cognitive overload.” These overloads are leading to drivers zoning out and might correlate to the increase in fatal car crashes. 

Joan Claybrook, a former head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said, “After you get into your car, you may be operating on autopilot… I think computer use, in general, can overload you.”

Are Zoom Zombies making people worse drivers? 

This is something that every driver over the age of 50 has said since the beginning of time. Whether referring to horsemen, ship captains, or cars, everyone believes, at one point or another, that drivers are getting worse. Well, this might be the first time that that sentiment might be true. 

There is a confluence of issues piling up to make this particularly true. As the Zoom Zombies require more brains, spreading like wildfire, cars are also getting more and more “autonomous.” Don’t get me wrong; car technology is a good thing. Most advances make cars safer and easier to drive, but as we are getting more and more dulled by our computer screens, these features might be making it easier for us to zone out behind the wheel. 

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NBC News says a new study by Root Insurance found 54 percent of the 1,819 adult motorists surveyed said they had trouble concentrating on the road after videoconferences. The 65 percent of younger GenZ drivers said they, too, felt it was harder to concentrate after video calls. 

“Covid-19 fundamentally changed the way we interact with our vehicles,” Root Insurance founder and CEO Alex Timm said after the company released its distracted driving awareness survey. “As many abruptly shifted to a virtual environment, Americans’ reliance on technology dramatically increased along with their screen time, causing a majority of drivers to carry this distracted behavior into their vehicles.” 

How do we avoid more car crashes? 

The exact cause of this recent uptick in fatal car crashes is still hard to pin down, but we know that 2020 had a major uptick in fatal crashes. You might think it’s becuase that was the only way most Americans traveled in 2020, but the data shows that Americans drove fewer miles in 2020 than in previous years, yet deaths still increased. 

This data clearly shows that drivers are just getting in more and/or worse accidents. This theory that a lack of concentration behind the wheel might be caused by becoming Zoom Zombies seems to have legs.