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True Driving Distraction is Not Knowing Surroundings

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There were some fascinating findings recently in a study from Massachusetts Institute of Technology that was published in the recent Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. Basically, they found that the real issue for drivers isn't just that they watch the road , but that they have to be aware of their overall surroundings.

As was reported by the USA Today:

The group, led by Bryan Reimer, a research scientist at MIT's AgeLab, found that a driver's ability to focus on the driving environment varies depending on the "cognitive demand" of a non-driving activity. That is, the deeper the level of thought in a driver's mind, the less he focuses on his surroundings.

Good drivers routinely scan the road ahead and around them, looking for potential hazards that they might need to react to. When drivers face even light levels of cognitive demand, they scan the road less, Reimer says

These findings are significant because they further explain how vital it is that drivers be totally focused on driving. It answers why it isn't enough to believe you're safe enough to be on the phone, or texting, or any of number of distractions if you are just watching the cars ahead . The reality is that not being able to scan your surroundings reduces your ability to react.

The real trick to being safe on the road is to know what is happening more places than just ahead of you. What cars are coming up, and what is happening on the side roads? Clearly no one can protect against every possibility, but by staying in the moment of driving, it goes a long way towards keeping you and your passengers safe.