April 28, 2022 – If drivers focus more on scanning the road for danger, watching what other vehicles are doing, and staying ready to react, it can help prevent injuries and deaths on the road, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Jay Winsten.
In an April 15, 2022 opinion piece in Thrive Global, Winsten, director of the Initiative on Media Strategies for Public Health, noted that U.S. traffic fatalities are at their highest levels in 15 years, spurred by distracted driving, speeding, and alcohol impairment. “This month’s annual recognition of Distracted Driving Awareness has never been more important,” he wrote.
Being good at mindful driving takes practice, according to Winsten. “Many of us who work hard at being present and mindful in other parts of our lives seem to call a time-out while driving to make a call, send a text, daydream, or mull over a problem. Big mistake!” he wrote. “We run the risk of not noticing when the traffic ahead of us has stopped, a red-light runner is headed our way, or a child is darting into the street.”
Studies have shown that a distracted driver can experience “inattention blindness”—when the brain fails to notice and react to a signal from the eyes.
To combat the tendency to focus on something other than driving while at the wheel, Winsten recommended implementing microsteps such as taking a moment to commit to a distraction-free drive, leaving your phone out of sight and reach, and spending your time at red lights focusing on your breathing instead of reaching for your phone.
Read the Thrive Global opinion piece: How to Be a More Mindful Driver
Opinion: Amid surging traffic fatalities, a call for mindful driving (Harvard Chan School news)
What it will take to stop distracted driving (Harvard Chan School news)