A Friday report in Popular Mechanics reported on the dangers of daydreaming while driving. The report is based on the Erie Insurance Group’s study of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s database of traffic fatalities. That study concludes that 62 percent of the traffic fatalities in the US over the last two years have been caused by daydreaming.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to completely minimize the risk that your mind wanders off, but the risk can be reduced. The report makes the following recommendations to help reduce the risk of daydreaming while driving:
• Keep your eyes moving. Change your gaze every 2 seconds. Any longer and you tend to stare, which induces mind wandering and narrowing of peripheral vision. Tiring? No. The eyes were designed to keep in motion.
• To keep alert, interact with your environs by imagining “what-if” scenarios. What if that oncoming car crosses over? What if that truck ahead suddenly stops? All those what-ifs you’re visualizing feed your subconscious with some valuable data to reprogram your brain for your benefit. They may provide you with a better accident-evasion plan than the one you’ve imagined should a similar event actually happen.
• Chew something. Really. Crunchy foods will keep you alert. Even chewing gum works. One psychology professor advised drivers to chew peanut brittle, calories notwithstanding. Besides the noise made from crunching, he said that searching for the peanuts was oral therapy.
• Try different driving routes when possible. Driving the same long route is boring, and your mind is more prone to wander when it encounters the same repetitive conditions. It’s called habituation. Perry Buffington, a medical columnist, says, “simply put, we get used to things, and when we do, they’re no longer important to us.” Daydreaming results. And you notice fewer things when you’re bored, even if you’re not daydreaming.