Pay Attention - What Are You Doing While Driving?
Reported August 2011
BALTIMORE (Ivanhoe Newswire) --Nearly 80 percent of car crashes involve some form of distracted driving from taking your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel or your mind off what you’re supposed to be doing! An estimated half a million people are injured in crashes involving distracted drivers. Even with their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road, drivers around you may be dangerously distracted.
We’ve all done it, driving while distracted!
“There have been times when I’ve been driving and thinking about something, and thinking I wouldn’t be able to remember the scenery for the last 30 seconds or something that I’ve been through,” one driver told Ivanhoe.
“Usually during long drives is when I’ve found myself kind of wandering,” another driver said.
“On the freeway I have found my mind wandering sometimes, miss an exit maybe,” one driver added.
Experimental psychologists who study the human factors that distract us say that talking and texting aren’t the only forms of dangerous driver distractions, daydreaming behind the wheel can also be hazardous.
“That distraction when you’re talking on your cell phone is not just from having to hold the phone. It’s from taking your mind off the road, so those hands free devices aren’t going to solve the problem,” Jason McCarley, Ph.D., experimental psychologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign told Ivanhoe.
In a driving simulator, volunteers were asked to drive on a long stretch of road with very little traffic, while keeping a steady pace and following a car ahead they were not allowed to pass. Drivers hit a button in the car anytime they caught their minds wandering. Scientists recorded how the vehicle was controlled and eye movements of drivers during the drive.
"Instead of checking their mirrors or scanning the side of the road to look for hazards or things they should avoid, they tended to sort of focus their attention to very tightly right in front of them,” Dr. McCarley said.
A narrow focus means drivers are less likely to swerve to avoid hazards that pop out suddenly. In other studies 30 to 40 percent of drivers admit to daydreaming.
“You can mind wander and zone out and not realize that you’re zoned out,” Dr. McCarley explained.
To help avoid mind wandering, stay energized, and stay focused.
“I’m a pretty careful driver,” one driver said.
“I’m a very safe driver,” another concluded.
No matter how safe you think you are, pay attention to the road ahead. When it comes to using a cell phone, drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into injury crashes and whether it’s hand held or hands free, cell phone use delays a drivers reactions as much as having a blood alcohol level at the legal limit of 0.08 percent. That’s probably why of those killed in distracted driving related crashes, 18 percent were due to cell phones.
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Jason S. McCarley
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