Distractions are everywhere – and we hear daily about the dangers of distracted driving. But letting your daily drive get too routine can also be a hazardous distraction when you’re driving.
Have you ever arrived at your destination and realized you didn’t remember much about getting there? It happens to the best of us even when we think we’re practicing good, responsible driving techniques. This experience is usually referred to as highway hypnosis or automatically, which is the ability to do routine things, like walking, speaking, repetitive work tasks and driving without thinking about the many details that go into each effort. That leaves our minds free to converse with other passengers, to think about what we’re going to do when we reach our destination or to plan a project or activity.
Can it be dangerous? Definitely. A recent review of articles on highway crashes attributed to inattentive driving include the following:
- A Colorado woman killed when her motorcycle was rear-ended.
- A Wisconsin woman killed when a driver drifted off the road and struck her as she walked alongside the highway.
- A Florida bicyclist who suffered a closed head injury, spinal fracture, ear damage and a shoulder fracture when hit by a truck.
While it’s difficult to determine how many accidents can be attributed to driver inattention, some experts estimate it may be as high as a million crashes a year. So how do you limit the likelihood that you’ll find yourself driving on auto pilot? Here are some tips to help you avoid reaching your destination wondering “How did I get here?”.
- Don’t drive when you’re tired. It’s a lot easier to get hypnotized by the road when you ‘re tired. And worse yet, you risk falling asleep at the wheel. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates at least 100,000 crashes – including over 1,500 fatal accidents are caused annually by drivers who drove when they were too tired to get behind the wheel. Open windows if you feel sleepy or stop and get a soda, coffee or water to drink.
Focus on driving. Easier said than done when the kids are fighting in the back seat and you’re running late. But it’s better to pull off and settle the fight than to put your driving on auto and run into the car in front of you when it does a quick stop – all because you were trying to stop the kids from fighting.