One Mississippi, two Mississippi. One one thousand, two one thousand. In the time that it took you to read either of those common ways to measure two seconds you would have crashed your car. Experts at the University of Iowa claim that simple distractions that last for as short a time as two seconds can cause a crash.
This video reporting by CNN shows us a unique look into what is happening to you while you are inside of your car. Researchers are now able to simulate the driving experience and track the various ways that we move our eyes and our head. They have found that even the slightest details will distract us from the important task of driving. After watching this you will be surprised at how little it takes for distraction to cause an accident.
Most commonly these short distractions lead to “fender benders”, since the driver realizes their mistake prior to a serious accident but not fast enough to avoid a collision. The reporter had a close miss with a rear end collision in this video for example. According to the National Security Council there are 2.5 million rear end collisions each year. 20% of these crashes result in passengers experiencing various degrees of painful whiplash.
There are plenty of outside forces which we blame for our accidents and the resulting pain and costs, like road conditions or other people, but what about the things that we personally can do to avoid accident? The number one thing we can do is to avoid distractions.
Even something as small as the reoccurring noise of the bee in the back seat takes drastic tolls on the woman’s driving. If that could cause a crash what about the whining toddler or the sibling fights that frequently occur in the back of your minivan? Don’t underestimate the distraction of little things.
Keep in mind that every action we make has a consequence. That is especially true behind the wheel. If you turn the stereo dial or reach down to pick up that big gulp you not only have taken your hand off the wheel or your eyes off the road, you have taken your mind off of driving.
Psychologist David Meyer has found that each time we take our mind off one task and switch to another our mind takes time to readjust to the new task at hand. The more complicated the new task is the longer the mind takes in this adjustment phase. Though most do not see driving as difficult it does require attention to many different elements and is therefore a complicated action. Meyer believes that each time we take our mind off the task of driving we increase the amount of time spent behind the wheel that is unfocused and therefore dangerous. The following are three suggestions which will help you decrease the number of times you will have to change your focus as you drive.
- Pull over: If there is something out of the ordinary going on in your car, like the bee or the fight, wait until there is a safe place to pull over and then take yourself off the road until the distraction has been handled. If you do a lot of driving in town, always feel free to park in a parking lot for a moment if needed. Remember accidents will take more time to handle in the long run than a source of distraction at the moment.
- Plan Ahead: If you know you will need something like directions or a new CD place the items next to you. You could put the CD in before you drive. Many people feel the need to check things like make up or text messages while they are on the road. Doing these last minute checks prior to driving not only decreases your stress while driving it helps clear the mind for better driving. The more you do before pulling out of your driveway the safer you will be on the road.
- Practice: Nothing you do on the road should be new or unfamiliar. Unavoidably there are times when it is your first time driving to a certain place, but you can familiarize yourself with the route before leaving so that the roads do not look completely new. If you get a new hands free device practice using it a few times before you hit the road so that it isn’t new to you while driving.
If you follow these suggestions you will cut down on the distractions from within your car and mind, allowing you to be better equipped to handle the world outside your car.
The dangers of driving distracted are clearly real. Help cut down on your own personal distractions and prepare yourself for whatever driving situation my come your way. For those times when someone else’s distractions get the best of them and you are left needing help we offer our “Accident Glove Box Kit”, please request one today.
Image courtesy of Mary Hockenbery