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Updated: Mar 18, 2022


By Vasilis Comblas.

Did you ever drive your car and go on ‘autopilot’? Ever realised you had driven for the past 30 minutes without noticing your surroundings or driven yourself home but haven’t really been paying attention? Brain scans have revealed that when your mind wanders, it switches into “autopilot” mode, enabling you to carry on doing tasks quickly and without conscious thought.

It isn’t just alcohol that makes you blank out, both positive and negative emotions can also cause distractions while you’re driving. Everyday things, such as thinking about work, your next holiday, the argument you just had with your partner, the promotion at work or just plain boredom.

Autopilot driving along your regular routes – going home or going to work especially – comes automatically and, according to research, at most times accurately. It’s when the unexpected happens, a parked car, a pedestrian crossing the road or traffic lights changing, that driving on autopilot becomes dangerous.

Our problems and stresses (even fantasies and excitements) make us lose focus – and losing focus while driving can be deadly.

Your feelings and how you think play a big part in how you drive.

Did you know that 95% of accidents is caused by driver behaviour! According to the Accident Research Centre at Monash, mental health not only affects our everyday lives, it also affects our driving, so before you get into your car make sure your mind is focused on driving and not on ‘other stuff’, because this ‘stuff’ puts our brain into autopilot!

To make sure you are in the right headspace there are several questions you should ask yourself before driving your car:

1. Are you focused on driving?

2. How you are feeling?

3. Do you know where you are going?

4. Is anything distracting you?

If you find yourself distracted while driving, find a safe place to park and take a break, take deep breathes and get your mindset in the right place before moving on. Try Mindfulness, a type of simple but very powerful meditation.

Mindfulness helps you focus on being aware of what is around you and how you feel. It doesn’t take long to learn how to be Mindful and you can do it anywhere - which is helpful if you are already on the road.

My suggestion would be to use the STOP method for Mindfulness meditation:

S - Stop and just sit for 5 minutes quietly

T - Take time to breath

O – Observe and focus on one thing at a time

P – Pay attention to what you’re your mind is doing and proceed

Mindfulness can help to increase our ability to control our emotions, decrease stress, anxiety and depression. It helps you feel calm and focused, it also allows us to perform better (most of the top racing car drivers practice Mindfulness).

If you can’t stop thinking, if your mind isn’t on driving – play it safe - ask someone else to drive or take an Uber.

If you want to support a great charity that helps individuals battling anxiety and depression register for the Thunderbolt Run Event. Contact Vasilis Comblas

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