With the summer months here and kids out of school, there is an increase in travel around our nation. Many of us are choosing to hit the road for short weekend trips to Grandma’s or the nearest National Park; some are spending weeks on the road seeing it all. Some of us will stay local, partaking in summer camps and new activities in our communities.
Whether you are traveling or keeping your usual work routine, most likely you spend some portion of your day in your car driving to your destination. As the National Safety Council’s president has said, “Driving a car is one of the riskiest activities any of us undertake in spite of decades of vehicle design improvements and traffic safety advancements.” Even a short commute just a few blocks can be one of the most dangerous things we do.
The problem lies with distractions. All of us are easily distracted. What are we having for dinner? Did I send out that work email? What are my kids doing right now? And these are just some of the distractions that are happening in our head. This doesn’t account for cell phones, other passengers, the radio, and other outside factors.
Ultimately, it is our state of mind that is the real cause of distraction. Our mood can affect our driving – rushing to get somewhere; frustrated with traffic; tired from a long day. However, the biggest risk is in complacency. After years and years of driving, it becomes second nature to us. After years of taking the same route to work or school, it’s like the car drives itself there. We stop being fully aware of our surroundings.
To prevent distractions, make sure you are aware of how your mood is influencing your driving. Take a deep breath and don’t get frustrated over another driver. Stop and take time to rest and recharge if you’re yawning and feeling tired. Calm down and know that it is better to arrive late and alive than rush and risk getting in an accident.
Complacency can be the most challenging distraction to address. Be sure to build strong habits, both in your driving and in your daily tasks. Practice these skills when you’re alert and aware, so you can more quickly recognize these factors. Be deliberate in your actions.
So this summer, whether you are traveling across the country or simply across the city, stay alert in your driving. Fight off complacency and stay engaged in your commute.