At times, our thoughts can feel like they’re racing faster than the traffic around us while we’re on the road – but letting our minds stray behind the wheel is a form of distracted driving. Mental distractions can be just as dangerous as physical ones, whether we’re consumed by anger, worry and stress, or just simply letting our minds wander.
This wandering is also known as “inattention blindness,” or looking but not seeing. You may have experienced inattention blindness if you’ve suddenly found yourself pulling into your destination and wondering how you got there. This autopilot mindset means that your brain was less focused on the important task of driving safely, leading to slower reaction times behind the wheel.
Mental distractions to be mindful of while driving include:
- Strong emotions, including road rage;
- Being too caught up in music or podcasts;
- Overly engaging in conversation; and
- General stressors, such as the pandemic, family matters or future plans.
Driving with intention can be a safe way to combat inattention blindness. Drivers who are in tune with their personal mental state and who use situational awareness can better anticipate the actions of others on the road and react appropriately. April is typically Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and is an excellent time to teach company drivers about inattention blindness while reminding them of other safe-driving tips, such as:
- Multi-tasking is a myth. Studies have proven that our minds can only focus on one thing at a time;
- Take a few deep breaths when feeling strong emotions;
- Never engage with aggressive drivers on the road — emotionally or physically;
- If weather permits, open a window for fresh air to help stay alert;
- Listen to the radio as a less interfering task alternative;
- Plan ahead: Have directions ready, check the weather and pack all needed items before leaving;
- Take care to not “zone out” when driving on familiar roads or routes. You can’t anticipate the actions of other vehicles, pedestrians, or animals; and
- Take personal accountability for your mental state behind the wheel. Only you will recognize when inattention blindness starts, so it is your responsibility to stay focused on the road.
Chad Boyer, director of safety at Coburn Supply Co. in Beaumont, Texas, takes these messages to heart, especially during Distracted Driving Awareness Month. He notes that their drivers are trained through weekly and monthly safety meetings that address various distracted driving events, including inattention blindness. They’ve even taken their distracted driving training a step further by utilizing a cell phone policy, along with an in-cab technology solution in their vehicles to help keep their drivers focused on the main task at hand: helping prevent distracted driving so that employees reach their destinations safely.
“Here at Coburn Supply Co., as we monitor our drivers and continue to coach them on a daily basis, we have seen a decrease in distraction by mobile devices,” Boyer said. “And monitoring of our cameras by our managers and our DOT Compliance manager has had a huge impact on addressing distracted driving issues,” he said, adding that their company is quick to step in and take corrective actions when drivers are observed not complying with their distracted driving policies while driving.
By taking these proactive approaches to safe driving, Coburn Supply Co. proves that focusing on helping prevent various kinds of distracted driving, while reminding drivers of the seriousness of inattention blindness and other driving distractions, is necessary for the safety of their company drivers, and others on the road.
By reinforcing the message that you want them to make it home safe today, businesses can lead company drivers in the right direction through regular training and involvement. Being cognitively aware and present while driving can help prevent a devastating crash — so evaluate your mental state before you drive.
For more information on safe driving and Distracted Driving Awareness Month, reach out to a Federated Insurance marketing representative today.