Driver Conditioning Part VII: The Series in a Nutshell
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Driver Conditioning Part VII: The Series in a Nutshell

Driver Conditioning Part VII: The Series in a Nutshell

Keep Driver Conditioning in mind each time you or your teen get behind the wheel.

The end of one thing often marks the beginning of another.

Dean T. Johnson is the president and founder of The Sandy Johnson Foundation: Making Our Roads Safer. He began the efforts of promoting safe roadways, soon after the unnecessary deaths of his wife and mother-in-law.

In this multiple-part series, The Sandy Johnson Foundation has identified, described and proposed solutions to Driver Conditioning: the process through which drivers become conditioned to respond to traffic patterns and road conditions that remain consistent over an undefined period of time or distance. This final part in our series will summarize our safety message in the hopes of helping you and your teens become –­ and remain – safer drivers.

Driver Conditioning is the underlying cause of most vehicular crashes and influences driver behavior in many ways. The following is a partial list of the issues that contribute to Driver Conditioning, accompanied with a short explanation of each:

  • Mental compromise – When we share our driving experience with other activities or thoughts (often referred to as distracted driving)
  • Cognitive disengagement – When we drive without thought, and often without memory of having done so
  • Inattentional blindness – When we fail to see objects within our field of vision
  • Tunnel vision – When we completely lose our peripheral vision as we focus on a distant point

Drivers experiencing these issues can face higher risks on the road, often without even realizing it. The more distracted or ‘out of the moment’ you are behind the wheel, for example, the slower your response time. That means your reaction to a hazard can be seriously delayed, making it almost impossible to avoid the hazard.

These issues can also give drivers a false sense of security. When drivers become comfortable in their driving environment, they often engage in inappropriate behavior, such as not fastening their seat belt or not looking twice before entering a roadway. In this relaxed state of mind, drivers can even convince themselves that it is safe and acceptable to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These issues and behaviors are all caused or made worse by Driver Conditioning, and though they are individual actions, they place all highway travelers at risk.

With so many mental challenges to face, parents should take extra care to make sure teens understand these driving dangers and take them seriously. One of the tools available to address these mental challenges is the internet-based, supplemental driver’s education program called The Hidden Dangers of Driving, offered at no cost by The Sandy Johnson Foundation.

Our series also outlined how highway officials can help keep us safe, often in spite of ourselves. By understanding the effects of Driver Conditioning, officials can tweak their policies and procedures tohelp reduce the national crash rate.

Finally, we learned that officials can take preemptive measures to counteract the negative influences of Driver Conditioning. For example, at locations where drivers may lose focus on their driving environment due to the above characteristics influenced by Driver Conditioning (mental compromise, cognitive disengagement, inattentional blindness and tunnel vision), rumble strips can be installed to help bring the driver’s attention back to the roadway. Once attention has returned to the driving environment, adequate signage can educate the driver about the approaching change in traffic pattern or road condition.

That brings to an end our series on Driver Conditioning, the underlying cause of nearly all vehicular crashes. I hope this has been a positive influence on the driving habits of you and your loved ones. For additional information about our public services and highway safety initiatives, please visit us at our website, on Facebook or Twitter. Guest speakers are also available for businesses and adult or youth-centered organizations.

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