Monday, January 10, 2011

What are you seeing?

What are you missing?  One study says that a different piece of information is introduced to you as a driver every two feet, which, at 30 miles per hour, means you are exposed to 1320 new bits of information per minute. This is comparable, to reading three paragraphs while looking at pretty pictures, as well as all of the things just mentioned "every minute you drive.” (Tom Vanderbilt, “Traffic”). 
Now add this next statistic: Progressive Insurance polled 11,000 of its policyholders who experienced accidents.  They found that 52% were involved in accidents within five miles from their home and 69% were involved in accidents within ten miles from their home. Only 17% of those polled experienced accidents beyond twenty miles from his or her home (, Oct 2008).
Being in a familiar area should take some of the strain off on the processing demand.  It should be easier to process information in an area where you already have a wealth of data.  Studies show that it takes the brain 6 to 10 seconds to process new information; therefore, you should have an advantage close to home where you already have the knowledge base.
Our brain gets tricked.  We routinely go through dangerous areas and over time we get complacent through the safe management of these hazards.  A helpful tip is to deploy the “fire alarm” technique to refreshing batteries – change the batteries when daylight savings starts and ends.  For driving, do an inventory of your environment on the change of season.  With the start of winter, here is what I re-looked within my driving world:
·         False Positive Intersections - those intersections where you cannot clearly see the cross traffic approaching.  The tendency for drivers to scan left or right for cross traffic - get blocked by bushes, fences, parked cars – and falsely believe there are no cars present.  In the winter, in snowy conditions, it is more likely that cars will implement rolling stops.  These intersections are now very dangerous. Make sure you can see what is on the other side of that snow bank.
·         The “Little Dipper” – minor grade changes in the road, particularly before intersections.  The constant stopping and starting makes these very slippery and add the physics of forward momentum and we get lots of fender benders.
·         Above ground ramps and bridges.  Without the insulating properties of the ground, these areas freeze over faster than the rest of the roadway.
·         Time to scan the top of trucks.  Never a lot of fun to have the chunk of ice land on your car.
Finally, maybe it is time to consider a different route to and from work.  Change it up.  The extra 5 minutes will increase your alertness and may save a lot of time in the end.  When you go back to the old route, you will be pleasantly surprised at what you will now be seeing.