“Wait! How did I get here?” I exclaimed to myself as the tingly, nervous sensation worked it’s way up my spine to the base of my neck. It’s that feeling you get when you are cruising along and suddenly realize that you don’t remember driving the last several miles of road. I’ll bet that just about anyone who has driven for any length of time has had a similar experience.
Over time, with an activity like driving, it is easy to become too comfortable. Many functions of driving become deeply ingrained in muscle memory. After a while, your brain slips into autopilot. When this happens, the mind can tend to take this as a free pass to wander. We become complacent, begin to daydream, and next thing you know you’re twenty miles down the road and not sure how you got there.
The worst part about this is that complacency is a silent attacker – a ninja, sneaking in without a sound to attack from the shadows. We don’t realize what has happened until it’s over.
Unfortunately, we’re not always so lucky to snap out of it and find we only drove a few miles down the road. Sometimes it’s the sound of squealing tires, a sudden impact, and the realization that somebody may not be going home today.
That is why it is important to recognize when our routine is getting too stale and take measures to combat potential complacency.
Let the Battle Begin.
What can we do to fight off the silent attack of complacency?
The first and most important thing you can do is recognize that complacency is possible. We become complacent when our activities become too routine or monotonous. Realizing that your pattern is causing you to pay less and less attention to the actual process is the first step.
The next step is to take action. This can be as simple as changing something about your routine. When changing lanes, maybe you always check your mirror first then look over your shoulder. Instead, you could try checking over your shoulder first then the mirror. It’s a small change. However, even just a small change like that is enough to make the brain focus on what is happening. I find that, when trying things like this, I often have to look twice. I will realize that the first time I looked I made the motions without actually registering what was there.
Another great way to beat down complacency is to pay attention to what other drivers are doing. Typically, when you see other drivers being unsafe you automatically take action to compensate. For example, you might look over and see the person in the lane next to you has the morning paper sprawled out over the steering wheel and is chomping on a breakfast burrito between sips of coffee. You are probably going to change lanes or slow down to put distance between you and that car. I know I would. You may not see anything that extreme, but just taking note of your surroundings will engage your mind and ward off complacency.
Complacency may be sneaky like a ninja, but it can be defeated. By taking small steps each day to stay focused while on the road we can end the battle before it even begins.