The Hidden Risks Of Driving Your "Usual Route"

by - 1/24/2019 05:39:00 PM

If you are planning a road trip, you will likely spend a lot more time thinking about the act of driving than you usually would. After all, you’re going to be spending hours behind the wheel, so you’ll focus on ensuring you will be comfortable, unburdened by distractions, and feeling at your best for the entire journey.

However, when you get into your car of a morning and drive your “usual route” to work or your children’s school, your preparation is likely to be… precisely zero. While this is entirely understandable - we all have routes we drive so often we feel we could practically manage every twist and turn in our sleep - this tendency is also a sign of an underlying issue.

What happens when people drive their “usual routes”?

When we drive routes we are familiar with, we’re all the more likely to disengage from the process of driving itself. In fact, many drivers experience an odd phenomenon wherein they arrive at their destination, only to realize they literally cannot remember a single moment of the drive.

Essentially, when we drive “usual routes”, we’re all the more likely to click into auto-pilot, let our minds wander, or turn the radio up and lose ourselves in our favorite songs - which is something that will rarely happen if we are driving somewhere unfamiliar. When we don’t know the roads, our focus is heightened; we scrutinize the road, look for signs, and so on - all behaviors that mostly make us more attentive drivers.

Why are these issues problematic?

When our minds drift while driving familiar routes, we’re essentially becoming distracted, as we’re so confident in the route we think about anything but driving - and that’s concerning. As you can read on, distraction is one of the leading causes of car accidents, potentially resulting in serious accidents and personal injuries. As driving a “usual route” gives way to distraction, then it stands to reason that accidents are more likely in this scenario.

It’s fair to say that this conclusion is rather surprising; most of us would expect that driving a familiar route is actually safer, as we’re already aware of every twist and turn and can thus drive accordingly. However, the benefits of familiarity with the road are rather outweighed by the risks of distraction.

How can this issue be overcome?

The best way to address this issue is to apply the same techniques you’d use when planning an unfamiliar drive to every journey you make: make sure you’re comfortable, keep common distractions such as those listed on  to a minimum, and ensure that you only drive when you feel well enough to do so.

Also, it may be worth considering making your “usual route” more unusual, and taking alternative routes every other time you make the same journey.

In conclusion

Driving “usual routes” usually feels safer than driving unfamiliar roads, but can actually be just as dangerous. By applying the tips as discussed above to your driving habits, you can help to reduce the “usual route” risk, and thus enjoy a safer experience while out on the roads.

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