Distracted driving is a leading cause of summer road fatalities. Changing your focus can change your experience.

It is no surprise that summer comes with its own distractions. Many of the distractions you face in the colder months remain, but summer brings more vehicles on the road, more pedestrians walking and running, motorcycles and bicycles, vacationers towing boats and travel trailers, and construction crews, all of which draw drivers’ attention away from their driving. Professional drivers are not immune to distraction and need to maintain their good driving habits.

Constantly moving your eyes every couple of seconds is a good driving habit. Every driver is responsible for learning to deal safely with the things that may affect their driving. It may sound odd, but drivers also need to learn to ignore the unimportant stuff.

The subconscious mind may notice a distraction, but the conscious mind needs to weed it out and focus on the more important driving tasks. The trick is to stop your subconscious mind from taking over.

Distracted driving is a problem of behaviour. Good habits can help you avoid the problem by changing your response. Behaviour modification is much like changing a habit. Since habits form on triggers that initiate a routine behaviour, if you change your response to a trigger, you can avoid the habitual behaviour. For example, swearing is a common habit, generally triggered by something stressful—a vehicle cuts you off or you jam your finger and out comes an F-bomb. You can change your response to the trigger by consciously substituting a less offensive word. Choosing something funny may also help reduce the stress—fudge nuggets, jerk-featured thing. Eventually, the new behaviour becomes the habit.

When it comes to summer driving distractions, the triggers may come from what you see on the road that is different from the rest of the year. You may notice someone towing an attractive boat, something you’d like to have yourself. You start thinking of having a boat, where you’d take it, and how you’d go fishing. The next thing you know, you are not focused on driving. And there is another distraction up ahead..

You can change the way you respond to summer driving distractions by making a conscious effort to steer your thoughts away from the distraction. Focus instead on what may affect you on the road.

For example, if you set out to notice all the red vehicles for 10 minutes, that’s what your focus will be on. After that 10 minutes, if you were asked how many blue vehicles were on the road, you probably would not be able to recall very many. That’s because you focused on something other than blue vehicles. You trained your mind to ignore what you did not want to focus on.

You can do the same thing to avoid summer distraction. Focus on what’s important to your driving task and ignore the other things, and allow that process to become one of your good driving habits.

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