Maybe your mind wanders, you are daydreaming, or simply zoning out when you are behind the wheel. If you are one of the guilty parties, don’t despair. A recent study by researchers at the George Mason University found that people’s minds wandered up to 70 percent of the time during a simulated work commute. According to an NBC news report, the study was aimed at exploring the concept of zoning out as a potential cause of distracted driving crashes. Researchers also noticed specific changes in brain patterns during periods of inattention.
What the Study Shows
For this study, participants were asked to stare at the center of a driving simulator for periods of 20 minutes. Occasionally they would hear a tone. Researchers would then ask the drivers if they were paying attention to the simulator or thinking about other things prior to hearing the tone. The study’s participants said they had zoned out during 70 percent of the probe responses.
Often, they said they were aware that they were daydreaming when they heard the tone. Researchers said they utilized monitoring tools to compare driver performance in the simulator with mind wandering. They say the study shows participant drivers who zone out are more likely to slow down and have trouble staying in the lane. The study was funded by a grant from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The Dangers of Zoning Out
While we tend to discuss electronic devices as a common cause of distracted driving, we don’t talk about mind-wandering, which is probably more common than we know or care to admit. According to a study conducted by the Erie Insurance Group in 2010 and 2011, 62 percent of distracted driving accidents were caused by daydreaming. Daydreaming while driving is dangerous because you may not be conscious of your surroundings such as bicyclists or pedestrians. Your reaction time when your mind is wandering is not as fast as it should be. It could impair your ability to stay in your lane or respond to other drivers.
There are ways in which you can guard against zoning out while driving. Be sure to continually shift your gaze, which will help your brain be more focused. Try to take different routes, which will keep you more attentive by stimulating your senses. Eating something could help you avoid daydreaming. You could also try making sure that passengers keep you engaged while driving.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a distracted driving car accident you may be able to seek compensation for medical expenses, lost income, hospitalization, rehabilitation and pain and suffering. Contact an experienced car accident lawyer to find out more about your legal rights and options.