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Is being ‘lost in thought’ really a driving distraction?

On Behalf of | Nov 9, 2023 | Motor Vehicle Accidents

Many driving distractions are quite obvious. If you’re driving and you see someone looking down at their phone, they’re distracted. If they’re trying to eat a meal while they drive or do personal grooming on the way to work, they’re not paying enough attention to the road. This can be quite obvious if you see them doing it or just from the driving mistakes that they make, such as swerving erratically because they’re not paying attention.

But not all driving distractions are this obvious. What if a driver just gets lost in thought? Some claim that this is one of the most common driving distractions a person can experience, and it’s also one of the most difficult to avoid.

A mental distraction

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classifies distractions as manual, visual, and cognitive (mental) distractions. In this sense, being lost in thought is certainly one of these mental distractions. A person may still appear to be paying attention to the road and holding onto the steering wheel, but that doesn’t mean that they are actually focused on what they’re doing.

For example, most drivers have had the experience of arriving at a destination and realizing that they don’t remember part of the trip. They clearly made the correct turns and stayed within the traffic lanes, but they don’t actually remember doing it because they were thinking of something else.

This can be a significant problem if someone is driving on roads that they’re very familiar with, which can cause them to become more complacent. It also happens a lot when that person is feeling bored by the monotony of the drive. Their mind begins looking for things to occupy them and break that boredom, which may mean daydreaming.

This can also happen if someone is experiencing stress or emotional turmoil. For instance, someone who is worried that they might get fired at work or that their spouse is going to file for a divorce may be so overwhelmed with these thoughts that they just can’t turn them off in order to drive.

Have you been injured?

It’s impossible to stop people from becoming lost in thought while they drive, so this type of distraction will continue causing accidents. If you’ve been injured by a negligent driver who wasn’t paying attention, you may be able to seek financial compensation.