As we near the end of distracted driving month, our Knoxville car accident lawyers wanted to make it a point to discuss a form of distraction that is too often overlooked: daydreaming.
It's likely almost everyone has done it at some point, and it's not difficult to understand why. Driving becomes such an entrenched part of our routines, that it's hardly something we even think about. Many drivers are basically running on autopilot behind the wheel, with their energies and attentions focused on what has to get done for work, where the kids have to go after school, the fight with their spouse, what's being made for dinner and a million other details.
Your mind may be moving as fast as your car, but it's not actually taking in everything around you. When this happens, you're at an increased risk of a motor vehicle accident. A recent study conducted by the University of Bordeaux in France found that of 1,000 drivers who were hurt in car accidents, more than half reported their thoughts had been somewhere other then the road in the moments before the crash.
This is noteworthy because while distractions like texting and driving have received so much attention, we rarely talk about the phenomenon of daydreaming distractions. We've been able to legislate a limit on certain kinds of driving distractions. For example, most states now have some kind of law against texting while driving, with some even having regulations on handheld cell phones. Many places too have graduated driver's license laws that force new drivers to limit the number of under-21 passengers in a vehicle at any one time, the idea being to limit the distracting conversation that so often leads to teen wrecks.
But we can't legislate thoughts.
Part of the biggest problem, according to psychologists who have studied the issue, is that so many of us allow our thoughts to drift without even realizing we're doing it. So while you can take steps to physically stop yourself from picking up the phone and texting while you're driving (by putting it out of reach, for example), it's harder to police your own thoughts.
That doesn't mean you're powerless.
Dr. Paul Atchley, professor of psychology at the University of Kansas who studies multitasking and distraction effects on driving, offers the following tips on how to best avoid a daydreaming-while-driving crash:
- Bear in mind the risk. It's easy when we're going through the daily routines to forget what a risk we take every time we get behind the wheel. Reminding yourself each time you get in that you're entering a potentially dangerous situation might help you to maintain your focus a bit better.
- When you find yourself starting to wander mentally, particularly when you're alone, engage yourself in games that will help you better focus. For example, "I Spy a Distracted Driver." See if you can spot other vehicles that are obeying traffic signals, remaining in their lanes or coming to a complete stop. This has the added benefit of prompting you to drive more defensively.
- Tell your passengers to speak up if they see something and don't feel you're reacting fast enough. Most people don't say anything because they don't want to be annoying or a "backseat driver." But if they have your permission to let you know when they see a potentially dangerous situation, it's safer for everyone.