Mindless driving is on the rise. Here’s how you can become a less bored and reactive driver.
At any given moment, as many as 660,000 American drivers are behind the wheel, clutching an electronic device. Twenty-three percent of all auto collisions involve mobile phones. In Mindful‘s August issue, writer Jeff Greenwald offers tips for mindful driving. It’s a great opportunity to try to insert moments of mindfulness into your day. Not everyone does aikido or martial arts. But everyone drives.
1. Leave anger at the curb
The car ahead of you signals to turn left, but moments later, turns right. An insignificant incident, but one you react to by swearing and blaring your horn. Why? Because the brain is doing a lot of work, parsing 200 decisions per mile while drawing on 1,500 psychomotor skills to get you from point A to B.
To curb that stress response, try this mindful driving game: give the first five drivers “the right to be wrong”—to make a mistake while driving. After car number five, you can vent all you want. “I discovered that the sixth, seventh, and fifteenth didn’t have much impact on me,” writes Greenwald.
2. Be the car
Relax. Take a few deep breaths, and settle in. “Your Mini Cooper, like the zen archer’s bow, becomes an extension of yourself. Its tires become your shoes; the rear-view mirror, your third eye,” writes Greenwald. Anything that surfaces on the drive—like anger or anxiety—gets calmly acknowledged. Then you let that emotion go and return to the road ahead.
3. Resist even a “glance” at your phone
An informal study in 2009 showed that texting while driving is more dangerous than drinking and driving.
You miss a lot when you’re looking at your phone—no surprise there. But the facts are shocking: a few seconds of phone-gazing amounts to hundreds of feet of pavement missed. Greenwald notes:
At 60 mph, when you take your attention off the road for four seconds—and that’s how long it takes to read a short text, let alone write one—you travel 350 feet. Think about it: You’re driving blind the entire length of a football field.