One of the most difficult aspects of keeping safe when driving is trying to keep concentration levels high. For most of us, the most potentially dangerous activity we carry out is the school, shop, or work journey – usually on familiar roads.
We all expect to get from A to B safely but distractions can and do work against us. The modern gadgets that are designed to make our journeys easier can be the very things that reduce our full-time concentration on the road. Modern car technology is taking some of the decision-making from drivers. Adaptive cruise control recognises when we are too close to traffic in front; lane change technology reduces the chances of a “side swipe” on multi-lane roads; cruise control and speed limiters; satellite navigation and traction control; they can all reduce our concentration if we rely upon them to keep us safe.
Rules 149 and 150 in the Highway Code state that we must exercise proper control of our vehicles at all times when using in-vehicle systems. It is an offence to contravene these rules and it could lead us in to danger.
The best way to maintain concentration is to carry out a short commentary during the drive. Saying out loud what you see, which might make you change speed or direction, guarantees that you are concentrating totally on your driving.
Emergency service drivers (police, fire etc.) and advanced drivers are taught how and when to use this technique. The rationale is indisputable. Humans are “hard-wired” to concentrate on one thing at once. We can all multi-task but we all split our thoughts evenly on each task as we do them. If we say what we see (i.e. traffic sign, moving traffic, pedestrian etc.) which might affect us, then concentration on the primary task of driving safely will be boosted.
Raising concentration levels in this way (talking aloud about expected hazards) improves observational skills which in turn enhances our ability to anticipate potential dangers. In this way, we become a proactive driver rather than reacting after a problem has developed.
Commentary driving for short spells of time counteracts boredom and when used regularly becomes a positive tool in a driver’s “tool box” to help us keep safe.