(COLO) – You’re commuting to work thinking about the day ahead and before you know it you are out of your neighborhood and on the highway. You’re running errands and your mind wanders back to the conversation with your friends. How often do our minds wander when behind the wheel of a vehicle? Researchers and law enforcement officers have known for years, it is a very common and real threat on our roadways.
In 2022, when Colorado State Troopers were able to determine a human factor for an injury or fatal crash caused by distraction, the second largest human factor was “looked but did not see” or a person’s mind is elsewhere. In fact, troopers determined that inattentional blindness or daydreaming caused crashes in Colorado more than doubled last year, jumping from 30 in 2021 to 76 in 2022.
Performing a repeated task, like driving every day, can become second nature or automated for drivers who aren’t consciously working to maintain focus on the task at hand. This can be especially true when drivers make routine trips or have locations that they frequently visit.
“Staying alert behind the wheel allows drivers to take in and appropriately respond to the hazards and behaviors around them that may appear on an otherwise ‘routine’ drive,” stated Col. Matthew Packard, chief of the Colorado State Patrol. “A child stepping off the sidewalk, a car turning into your path or quickly braking, these are not scheduled events and tuning out for just a few seconds can turn a daydream into a nightmare.”
Whether you are a professional driver or an average license holder, drivers can make conscious efforts to decrease distractions vying for attention and decrease the chance of missing important cues due to inattention blindness. Things steps include:
- Be aware that we are all prone to distraction, including daydreaming and take it seriously.
- Eliminate distractions – put your phone out of reach, get your music or navigation set before you begin driving, and eat/drink outside of the vehicle only.
- Look for Cues – road signs warn of potential hazards and environmental cues like wooded areas and busy sidewalks are opportunities to refocus when your surroundings change.
Troopers continue to take a low tolerance approach to lane violations while launching a yearlong campaign called “Stay in Your Lane.” This campaign is designed to remind people to control their lane position based on their current driving environment. This campaign also aims to bring attention to three of the most common and avoidable behaviors that contribute to lane violations – driving aggressively, driving distracted or driving while impaired.
ABOUT THE COLORADO STATE PATROL
Since our origin in 1935, the Colorado State Patrol (CSP) has focused on preserving human life and protecting property within our communities. Our 1,100 members embody the core values of Honor, Duty, and Respect in their daily jobs. In addition to our expertise in motor vehicle safety on the state’s roadways, the CSP is responsible for the Governor and other dignitaries’ protection, commercial motor vehicle enforcement, hazardous materials, homeland security, communications, investigative services, criminal interdiction, community education, aviation operations, and more.