How to Be a More Attentive Driver
by Denise McCluggage
you are driving a car the "right thing" to pay attention to is driving
that car. The intelligent driver is attending to the exterior surroundings (road
conditions and traffic flow), the interior situation (controls, instruments, passengers)
and to her own mind set (irritated, alert, preoccupied etc.) That is the ideal.
reality is that the mere physical demands of just driving are
limited. Monkeys and teenagers can do that part with ease, even brilliance, but
real driving happens in the mind. To do it well requires more than
physical skill. It requires the type of intelligence that pays attention to the right
thing at the right time, knows what to do in new situations and
how to do what is demanded.
basics of driving — steering and pushing pedals — can soon be emptied of interest.
Then, the mind can wander. Why not? It is enticed by a myriad of things both inside
the car and out that are more interesting than simply driving.
Inside the car
there are A/C or heat controls to fiddle with, music to be
listened to, talk radio to yell back at, cell phones to be answered, Big Gulps
to be gulped, passenger chatter to exclaim over, maybe even car-seated baby demands
to be met.
there's the fender-bender to be gawked at, the "1/3 off" sign in the
shoe store window to be noted, the new building going up to be checked out, the
parking place to be looked for.
driving seems to demand attention only when something dreadful is pending or has
already happened: a car jumps the center divide, an SUV runs a stop sign, a truck
loses its load of pipe, a sports car scoots from nowhere across your bow for the
exit ramp, a dog darts from between parked cars.
things all seem to happen with no warning, but truth be told even "suddenly" is part of an evolution. The intelligent driver knows where trouble is likely
to lurk and what situations engender; the alert driver can spot problems developing
and not be at the epicenter if they materialize.
can you as a driver cope with the rain of distraction that pounds on you
at every moment? How can you be an intelligent driver? "Pay attention!" you are told. Concentrate! But how?
are four things that you must recognize that might help you as a driver avoid
the pitfalls of distraction.
the risks of distractions.
The first step is to realize that any distraction
carries risk with it. Your world may stop because you dropped the cassette on
the floor, but the world you're driving in keeps motoring on.
Recognize your own signs of distraction.
As you drive be self-watchful.
Learn to spot the indicators that you are bored or inattentive. Have standard
checks. What do you notice in your mirrors? What's on the left of you? The right?
If the scene has changed appreciably from the last time you checked you've been
that a distraction is just an attraction elsewhere.
When you see the lights and congestion of an accident in
the opposite lane squelch the urge to gawk. Attend instead to maintaining your
distance from the cars near you being aware that their drivers could be rubbernecking.
Recognize the inherent limitations of attention.
Good drivers know how to allot their limited attention to stay on top of any given
situation. They also know that concentration often flees from efforts to evoke it.
It prefers to be attracted to the task rather than forced and so they find something
of interest in the daily-ness of driving that draws interest, that keeps the driver
involved in the process of driving.
you realize how deadly distractions can be to you as a driver, you'll find new
ways to keep your attention focused.
The Six Most Common Distractions
- Radio and CD Players:
Learn your system well enough to use by touch and sound alone. When buying a car, opt for fingertip controls on the steering wheel and head-up displays for tuning, if available.
CD players require less fiddling. Decide your listening mood before you start and load the machine.
Take advantage of the push button or scan devices on your sound system. If you are driving alone do your adjustments while stopped.
If you have passengers, pre-instruct them in the use of the controls and let them be your trained surrogate while you're behind the wheel.
Ideally, transport small pets in carriers.
Check out pet restraint systems to limit injuries to them in crashes.
Belt children in appropriate car seats. If you are tempted to belt them in other ways be sure you stop first.
Don't get involved in inter-child arguments or who-started-it polemics. Forget the "Don't make me stop this car!" threats. Stop the car. Get it settled. You cannot be an upset mother and an alert driver at the same time.
Forbid games that involve tossing a ball or anything else that might get under foot and interfere with the controls.
Sure, play the alphabet game and the license tag game with them, but don't keep score. (You might get emotionally involved.)
If you have to eat on the go, prepare simple finger foods before you go.
Drinks for in-car consumption should be in closed, spill-proof containers to reduce their distraction capability.
If you must smoke while driving, wear something that getting burn holes in won't upset you.
Use a hands-free device for the phone and keep your hands on the wheel.
Understand that it is the conversation itself, not the phone that is the most serious distraction. Keep it light, terse and short.
Realize that phone use of any kind slows your reaction time thus lengthening braking time so allow other cars more space.