It’s Hard to Focus on the Road When Your Head’s in the Clouds

Everyone knows paying attention to the road is the first rule of operating a vehicle. But with so much on our minds and much of the driving process governed by muscle memory, it’s all too easy to zone out and engage our inner autopilot.

Why daydreaming while driving is a dangerous distraction Neblett, Beard and ArsenaultOne second you’re focused on the task at hand and the next, you’re wondering if you should pick up dinner from that new restaurant downtown or wondering what your middle school best friend is up to these days.

Technology hasn’t made distracted driving much safer. iPhone users are more than twice as likely as Android users to video-chat, use Instagram, stream video, and take photos or video while driving.

Though researchers say daydreaming while driving likely can’t be completely eliminated, it can be minimized. Stay focused and reduce your risk of causing a distracted driving crash by:

  • Frequently changing your gaze. When you stare, your peripheral vision narrows and your mind wanders—neither of which is ideal while driving.
  • Playing verbal road games with passengers. Games like “I Spy,” which require you to continually scan your surroundings, can help you stay alert and focused on the road. They also engage passengers, who often serve as extra sets of eyes and point out hazards.
  • Actively watching for situations that may require your action. Scanning the road ahead and planning your response to potential hazards can help keep perception skills sharp.
  • Varying your driving routes. Our minds are more prone to wander when our commutes are repetitive. Taking different routes can help you stay focused on the road.