Be Mindful Behind the Wheel

Along with the rising temperatures, the arrival of summer brings many changes to people's schedules and to the roads.  Children and teens, no longer in a regimented school year schedule, are home with families and babysitters until September.  With these summer changes, runners, walkers, inexperienced drivers, bikers, and motorcycle drivers populate the streets.

Image Source: German Way

Image Source: Motorcycle Training

Today, I hoped simply to bring awareness to the issue of distracted or inattentive driving.  In the same vein as the "Wait for It: Commit to Refrain from Texting & Driving" post, we need to, as drivers, remain alert, engaged, and aware at all times when operating a vehicle.   The irresponsible and unacceptable choices of drinking or texting and driving can result in devastating consequences, but even putting on makeup, changing the music, turning around to talk to or discipline your child, or eating while driving can distract a driver and potentially result in an accident.

According to a 2009 article from NY Daily News, "Eating and/or drinking in the car is responsible for a staggering 80 percent of auto accidents (and 65% of near misses), a new study shows."  How often do we finish coffee on the way into work or grab a bite to eat for the drive home?  And reports that, "At any given moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving" (NOPUS).

Image Source: Fire EMS Training

All this is to say that even if you've been driving for years, many of us could use reminders on how to be safe, alert, and mindful drivers.  So, here are a few...

Tips to be more mindful behind the wheel:

- Put the phone down.  Text messages, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and calls can wait until you stop driving.  If it's that important, pull over.

- Avoid other distractions within the vehicle.  Changing out your child's DVD, flipping radio stations, and eating or drinking are undeniably distracting.  If you work to limit these, you will find the drive to be less stressful and you'll be less likely to hurt yourself or others.

- Use your turn signals.  Be attentive and courteous to the drivers around you.  This will demonstrate your commitment to safe driving.

- Follow the speed limit.  Seems almost too basic to mention, but disobeying the speed limit or being so distracted while driving that you don't even notice the change in speed limits, is a problem.  They are posted for a reason and even if you're an excellent driver, you should follow them for the safety of others.

- Keep an eye out for other types of road users.  Cyclists, runners, walkers, playing children, and motorcyclists share the road.  Often, because motorists aren't used to seeing them, paired with distracted driving, the addition of these can result in an accident.  Slow down and give room.

- Focus on driving.  Beyond limiting distractions, be mindful and present in your drive.  You may have made it a thousand times, but that does not mean you can't make an effort to be present during it.  Yes, it may be your commute, but it's still your life.  If you make mindfulness happen in the most mundane parts of your life, it will be easier to practice mindfulness in the most joyous as well.

This issue is even more pressing, because the lives of our friends and families could be forever changed by making changes to how we approach driving.  Richmond has been devastated by several terrible accidents within the last few years--both bikers and runners.  Danny and I try to make ourselves more visible on walks, but that isn't enough.  Drivers need to make changes and be alert and aware to prevent accidents.

safety vests, bright colors, and reflective gear are smart ways for pedestrians 
to make themselves more visible when sharing the road

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