The more mindful a driver is the less likely they are to engage in dangerous and distracting behaviours on the road, according to research by Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) and mindfulness experts at Monash University.

Distracted driving has been found to be the main contributing factor in almost 16 percent of serious crashes resulting in hospital attendance in Australia, and in 10 percent of fatal and 15 percent of injury sustaining crashes in the USA.

Previous research by MUARC had found that mindfulness is associated with a number of positive cognitive outcomes, including improved concentration, situation awareness and reduced negative emotional reactivity.

“When applied in the road safety context, mindfulness may also play a significant role in improving driver behaviour, including preventing driver aggression, navigational errors and distraction, while increasing road safety,” researcher Associate Professor Craig Hassed said. “Our studies showed that among more mindful drivers, distraction caused by internal temptations was lower by 85 percent and distraction by events outside the car was lower by 68 percent compared to less mindful drivers.”

Dr Kristie Young said the study is significant in that mindfulness reduces the tendency to engage in distracting behaviour and reduces stress while caught in traffic or driving at high speeds on country roads.

“Lower levels of driver mindfulness was a significant negative predictor of the frequency of talking and texting on a mobile phone, using other technology, engaging in non-technology-based distractions, and being distracted by driver assistance systems,” Dr Young said. “Distraction mitigation techniques like mindfulness are looming as essential to save lives on our roads especially among young drivers who have high rates of addiction to technology, and who overestimate their ability to multitask and underestimate the dangers of driver distraction.”