Distracted driving is in the news these days. Governmental authorities everywhere are working to stem the tide of people driving without due attention, initiating heavy fines for those whose minds wander while behind the wheel.
The focus these days is on getting people to put down their mobile devices, mascara, or whatever else is causing them to take their eyes off the road. The human cost of distracted driving has compelled numerous pieces of legislation.
But the number one cause of distracted driving isn’t what you think it is.
It’s day dreaming.
With 172,000 traffic fatalities in the past 5 years – 1 of 10 being caused by distractions – it’s certainly time to address distracted driving, but how does one legislate against day dreaming?
When people are driving, they often think of the time it takes to get from point A to point B as a moment away from life’s pressures. That’s a problem. Driving a motor vehicle is a huge responsibility to one’s self and others on the road.
But people’s minds will wander. They lose themselves to a song on the radio or wondering what to fix for dinner. And in the moments their attention wanders from the road, anything can happen.
When over 60% of people admit to a lack of attention due to day dreaming at the time of a fatal crash, it’s time for more pointed education to reduce the instance of traffic fatalities.
The source of public data about distracted driving is usually the police officers attending the scene of an accident. It’s on them to determine what caused the accident and let’s face it – who wants to admit they were day dreaming or otherwise distracted following a collision?
Data about distracted driving and its prevalence is therefore not only limited, but not entirely reliable. There’s little in the way of empirical support, in the absence of any admission on the part of drivers that they weren’t paying attention.
Strategies to combat distraction
Our most compelling strategy against distraction is to create a stop gap for the mind’s tendency to wander away from the task at hand. A familiar play list of your favorite songs won’t do it. Because you’re well-acquainted with the music, it can be an invitation to distraction.
Instead of that beloved playlist, turn to something which demands your attention. Attention which is focused is easier to pull away and re-focus, as you drive. You also maintain alertness by listening to something like a podcast or a radio talk show.
This is called “passive engagement”. You may or may not be genuinely interested in the subject matter, but your mind’s engagement with it prevents you from drifting off.
Another excellent strategy to combat distraction is by playing a game with yourself as you drive. Like “punch buggy” for drivers, counting red cars, or playing a game of “I spy” can keep you focused on the road and prevent the kind of listless mental meandering that costs lives.