Skip to main content

Can in-car conversations actually make driving safer?

Cognitive behavioral researcher Paul Atchley says yes, shares three ways to avoid daydreaming while driving

(Erie, Pa.) April 25, 2018 – Distracted driving kills more than 172,000 people a year, and according to police data analyzed by Erie Insurance, “daydreaming” or being “lost in thought” is the top distraction associated with fatal car crashes.

“Daydreaming behind the wheel is common because driving has become so routine, and many people see it as a time to just relax,” said Jon Bloom, vice president of personal auto, Erie Insurance.  “Texting and driving is still very dangerous, and no one should do it, ever, but we also want to make drivers aware of daydreaming as a less understood driving distraction.”

To coincide with Distracted Driving Awareness Month, Erie Insurance reached out to Paul Atchley, Ph.D., an internationally recognized cognitive behavioral researcher, to provide tips on how to stay alert behind the wheel. Dr. Atchley has spent much of his career studying distracted driving and works with numerous national safety organizations to reduce it.

He offers three ways to stay alert behind the wheel. Check out this video featuring Dr. Atchley sharing these tips and more.

  1. Listen to a podcast or radio show – Keep your mind alert with so-called passive forms of engagement, like listening to a radio show or a podcast. Your brain is able to stay alert, and immediately tune out if you approach a situation that demands your full attention. Avoid listening to anything too familiar, such as the same playlist of songs again and again, as that could actually encourage your mind to drift off.
  2. Play old fashioned road games –Verbal road games like “I Spy” allow you to focus on the roadway and alleviate boredom, especially in a long drive.
  3. Ask a friend to ride along - Consider carpooling with another experienced driver. A co-driver can serve as a second set of eyes in heavy traffic and can help you spot hazards.

Dr. Atchley also recommends keeping your mind engaged by having a conversation with a passenger – but not with someone on the phone.

“A conversation on a cell phone is very different than a conversation with a passenger,” said Dr. Atchley. “Sure, they both occupy your brain, but that cell phone conversation isn’t going to stop when traffic gets heavy, whereas the conversation with the passenger will.”

“We’re sharing this information because we want to not only insure our customers’ cars, but also protect their lives,” added Bloom.