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Don’t Let Your Driving Routine Become Routine

Renee KolzowApril 1, 2013 1:00 amFeatured Articles, On The Road, Safety on the Road

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 automaticity, 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 included 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 the 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. Plus, there’s an extra benefit. If you want your kids to grow up to be attentive drivers, you need to set an example for them now. As for running late – if you have an accident you’ll definitely be late – that is if you get to your destination at all. Other reasons people put driving on automatic? It can be simple things like reaching for your coffee cup, to put a CD in or change the radio station.
  • Keep your eyes on the road. This should be a given, but it’s not. Especially when you drive a route a lot, it’s tempting to take your eyes off the road and check out those sale signs. But, if you routinely take long looks away from the road ahead of you, you’re routinely doubling your chance of having an accident. Talking on your cell phone, eating, texting, changing the radio or reading a book, newspaper or map while driving means you’re not paying attention to your main job. Although it’s tempting to multi-task in the car, don’t do it. Keep your eyes on the road and pull over or wait to phone a friend.
  • Don’t think because you’ve driven this road “a million times” that you know everything that can happen. Every day is different. Even if you drive the same route day after day at the same time, there are always new and different drivers on the route. And because you’ve driven it regularly, there’s greater risk that you’ll be on auto pilot yourself and that can be dangerous.
  • Realize that driving is multi-tasking. Safe driving involves more than gripping the wheel and putting your foot on the accelerator and brake at the proper times. It’s also being aware of your surroundings, looking ahead for potential danger, taking action as needed to safely navigate the road ahead – like being able to stop on time or safely in an emergency situation – and making good decisions depending on what the road ahead presents you. Staying alert is key!
  • Stay alert for the other driver who’s on auto pilot. Even if you’re a good driver who follows the rules of the road, who stays alert and focused and who doesn’t multi-task when driving, you can never predict what the other driver will do. That’s a key rule of safe driving and listed below are some other key rules to follow:
    1. Pay attention.
    2. Drive defensively.
    3. Yield even if you have the right of way.
    4. Don’t speed.
    5. Don’t drive impaired – drugs, alcohol or exhaustion can all impair your driving.
    6. Wear your seat belt.
    7. Use child safety seats.
    8. Understand how your braking system works and how to use it in an emergency.
    9. Understand how air bags work and adjust your seat in the car appropriately.
    10. Don’t run red lights.
    11. Keep your cool. Road rage is dangerous.

Stay safe wherever you choose to go on the road. Your safety is number one to us. For peace of mind on the road, contact a Foremost agency to talk about an auto insurance policy.

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