The Importance of Paying Attention - Preventing Distracted DrivingUpdated July 9, 2020
Your ability to fully and consistently focus your attention on the environment around your vehicle is every bit as important as your road rule knowledge and vehicle control skills. Paying attention while driving is an important skill which must not be overlooked while you’re learning to drive.
Irrespective of how “good” a driver you are, you will never be a truly safe and responsible motorist if you cannot maintain an accurate picture of what is going on in the roadway environment. You must begin the habit of paying attention from the moment you first set foot in your vehicle and continue to reinforce it for the rest of your driving life.
If - for any amount of time - your attention wanders away from the driving task, you may miss important cues on the roadway such as approaching hazards, other driver’s communications and changing traffic control devices. Without this information you will not be able to make safe and appropriate driving decisions.
Being adept at the physical act of driving is not enough to avoid accidents and collisions. Unless of course, you only ever drive in an empty parking lot! Real-world driving situations are full of complex, ever-changing risks which demand continuous adjustments to your driving behavior. To be a safe driver, you must also master the mental act of driving, which involves multitasking, interpreting visual cues and exercising good judgment – none of which will be possible if you do not pay attention to the road.
Using your mental and visual skills
An attentive driver will alter the position of their vehicle to create a clear line of sight, using that visual pathway to scan the road for possible dangers and changes in condition which may require action. Obviously, this demands a certain level of “visual skill” in that you must have good eyesight and the ability to move your gaze around the roadway without becoming fixed on a single spot.
More so than this, being an attentive driver demands mental skill. Your essential mental processes such as cognition (the ability to perceive events), reasoning (the ability to make sense of what you see) and decision-making (acting on what you see to increase safety) must all be focused on the act of driving. This will require mental and emotional discipline.
Developing the right attitude
Avoiding conflict, crashes and collisions while driving demands a well-rounded and responsible attitude. Drivers with the right attitude:
- Are always prepared to yield the right-of-way where appropriate or if safety demands it.
- Are well-versed in rules of the road, traffic signs and defensive driving techniques.
- Treat other road users as they would like to be treated.
- Can tell the difference between safe and unsafe choices.
- Choose not to drive if they are physically or mentally unwell or fatigued.
- Are emotionally stable and do not display anger at other driver’s mistakes.
- Are patient, calm and methodical in stressful driving situations.
- Are always attentive to the driving task
A truly responsible driver with the right attitude will check every box in this list consistently and without exception. You do not have the right attitude if you are only courteous to other drivers when it suits you, or if you only pay attention to the road when there are no distractions.
If you are mentally unable to pay full attention to the roadway due to emotional upset, a physical injury, a disruptive passenger or some other situation – do not drive.
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