Skip 
Navigation Link
Wellness and Personal Development
Resources
Basic InformationLatest News
The Value of UnpluggingClues to How You Hear in a CrowdHealth Tip: 5 Suggestions to Promote Healthy AgingA 3x10 Exercise Plan That'll Work for YouGood Lifestyle Choices Add Years to Your LifeTexting Smarts for Adults and KidsAmerica's 'Beautiful People' Are ChangingWhat Are Today's Americans Afraid Of?Be 'Mindful' of the HypeBumpier Skies Ahead, Thanks to Climate ChangeThe Benefits of 'Being in the Present'Moving Just 1 Hour a Week May Curb Depression RiskYour Sociability May Hinge on 'Love Hormone'Health Tip: Healthy Brain SuggestionsBody Gestures Aid ConversationSurvey: 9 of 10 Americans Take Cancer Prevention StepsEven a Little More Activity Could Save Millions of LivesWho's Likely to Fall for Fake News?Smoking, Poor Diet Lead Global Death CausesIt's Time to Kick Fido Out -- of Bed, That IsTake a Stand Against Sitting Too MuchDaydreaming Behind the WheelStrong Evidence for Healthy Lifestyle Reducing CRC RiskMany Moisturizers Aren't What They Claim to BeHealth Tip: Diet and Activity May Help Prevent CancerGetting Fit as a FamilyNeed Help Getting Organized?Too Much TV May Cost You Your MobilityPromoting Social Wellness in Your CommunityHobbies and Your HealthHealth Tip: Get Moving and Stay ActiveWellness Visits for Better Well-beingGet Ready, Safely, for the Great American EclipseTV Binge-Watching May Leave You Like 'The Walking Dead'Health Tip: Plan for a Heat WaveGivers Really Are Happier Than TakersHealth Tip: Think Smart During a Hot SpellHow Safe and Effective Is Your Sunscreen?For Drivers, Hands-free Can Still Be a HandfulIt's Never Too Soon to Safeguard Your BonesImpact of Video Games on Brain Varies With Game Type, Strategy'Loneliness Epidemic' Called a Major Public Health ThreatDoes Less Sleep Make You Less Healthy?Need to Calm Down? Try Talking to YourselfJust Thinking You're Less Active May Shorten Your LifeHealth Tip: Protect Your Skin at WorkGolfing and Gardening Your Way to FitnessTeaching an Old Brain New TricksCan't Get to the Gym? Work Out in Your Office!The Scoop on Avoiding 'Brain Freeze'
LinksBook Reviews
Related Topics

Smoking

Daydreaming Behind the Wheel

HealthDay News
by -- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
Updated: Sep 7th 2017

new article illustration

THURSDAY, Sept. 7, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Many people catch themselves daydreaming, but new research reveals it often happens when they're behind the wheel of a car.

Researchers analyzed the brain activity of volunteers during a driving simulation to determine how often their minds wandered. The investigators also looked for specific brain patterns that would indicate when this daydreaming occurred.

During the simulation, the participants were hooked up to a monitoring system that measured electrical activity in their brains.

The volunteers completed two 20-minute driving simulations each day for five consecutive days. The simulations weren't set up to be thrilling or technically challenging. Instead, they mimicked a typical steady commute to and from work along a boring stretch of highway. Between the two sessions, the drivers took a written test to duplicate the mental drain that would occur on a normal workday.

During the simulations, a buzzer went off at random intervals. Every time this happened, the participants were instructed to use a tablet computer to record if they had just been daydreaming. If their mind had been wandering right before the buzzer, the drivers were asked to reveal if they were aware of it or not.

"We found that during simulated driving, people's minds wander a lot -- some upwards of 70 percent of the time," said lead researcher Carryl Baldwin, of George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.

The researchers noted the driver's minds were more likely to wander on the second simulation, or the "commute" home. On average, the volunteers were aware of their distraction only 65 percent of the time.

Daydreaming among the drivers was also betrayed by their brain's electrical activity, the study published recently in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found.

"We were able to detect periods of mind wandering through distinctive electrophysiological brain patterns, some of which indicated that the drivers were likely less receptive to external stimuli," Baldwin said in a journal news release.

Drivers must be fully alert and aware of other cars on the road while driving so they can respond quickly to sudden or unexpected events. Distraction among drivers is a major factor in car accidents and related deaths, the study authors warned.

Cellphones and other mobile devices are well-known sources of distraction, but the researchers said there's less focus on daydreaming among drivers.

"Mind wandering may be an essential part of human existence and unavoidable. It may be a way to restore the mind after a long day at the office. What we are not sure about yet is how dangerous it is during driving," Baldwin said. "We need additional research to figure this out.

"In terms of improving safety in the future, one option could be ... self-driving cars that allow people's minds to wander when it is safe to do so, but re-engage when they need to pay attention," she said.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information on distracted driving.