Think that distracted driving just means using your phone while you drive? Texting and driving is dangerous, and it’s good to be aware of that. However, the truth is that distraction goes much deeper than texting alone. Anything that takes your mind off of the road — a cognitive distraction — may lead to an accident.
Take, for example, a study that showed daydreaming caused about 61% of distraction-based accidents. Drivers didn’t look away from the road, but they still didn’t see it. They didn’t take their hands off of the wheel, but they still were not in control of their cars. Instead, they let their minds wander, and they caused some serious accidents in the process.
Daydreaming takes many forms
There are a few serious issues with daydreaming behind the wheel, starting with the fact that it can take a lot of forms. How do you stop something that does not have a singular root cause?
For instance, someone may find themselves looking forward to an upcoming vacation and daydreaming about where they are going to go. Or they may keep obsessively thinking about an argument they had with their significant other before leaving for work. Or it could be as simple as someone feeling hungry and starting to think about what they want for lunch.
Now, you could argue that the “root cause” of all daydreaming is boredom. If people did not feel bored while driving, they would mentally engage with it. Since they do get bored — as dangerous as driving is, it’s something we all do quite often — then it’s easier for them to think about something else.
If that’s true, it still presents problems. Many other distractions are just attempts to break that boredom. A person who turns on the radio and searches for a channel wants to hear something to keep them entertained. A person who makes phone calls to friends to chat wants to have that conversation to keep them engaged when the road can’t do it.
That’s not any safer. Beating daydreaming by actively engaging in other distractions is still risky. Of course, the problem is that the alternative may leave you feeling bored and antsy, and that’s when your mind starts to wander. The only safe thing to do is to remind yourself that you must stay focused on the road.
After an accident
You may understand how risky distraction is and you may know that you should never daydream while you drive. That is a very good place to begin, but other drivers still embrace distraction all too often. If you get hurt in a crash with one of these drivers, make sure you know what steps to take afterward.