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The Dangers Of Driving On Autopilot

Young Man Driving His Vehicle Stock Photo

One of the first lessons students in driving school are taught is to pay attention to the road. This important lesson seems to have been forgotten by many drivers with years of experience. Complacency builds up when driving becomes second nature and their commuting routes and home neighborhoods become familiar. Because of this, they hand over their driving to their internal autopilot. Is this safe? Can your internal autopilot be trusted to do the right thing? The short answer is no. Here is why:

  • One in four accidents is caused by cell phone use. This was the finding of a report made by the National Safety Council in 2014. Our internal autopilot makes cell phone use possible while driving. Talking on the cell phone diverts the thinking mind off the road and leaves the autopilot in charge which is incapable of coping with sudden emergencies.
  • People on autopilot fail to notice the nature of the obstacles they avoid. One study noted that people will walk by a tree branch filled with dollar bills hanging at head level in their path without taking notice. They ducked their heads and passed on. Similarly, the driver on autopilot may dodge a child’s ball rolling in front of them without realizing the implication that a child may chase after it.
  • Most accidents occur within 25 miles of home. One reason is that people do most of their driving within this radius. However, autopilot driving in a familiar environment is the other reason for this statistic.
  • Safe driving requires situational awareness and a knack for anticipating danger. While your autopilot may default to driving into a gap in traffic, only your thinking brain will realize that the gap was caused by a paused car that was allowing a pedestrian to cross the road. Situational awareness requires active scanning of your mirrors and looking beyond the car immediately in front of you. Anticipating danger requires that you process and make sense of what your scanning is telling you.

Driving a car is inherently dangerous regardless of your familiarity with it. Avoiding injury and staying alive demands your complete attention. If you were injured in a car accident because of another driver’s inattention, talk to our South Carolina car accident attorneys. For a free consultation, contact us.