Christmas 2012: Research

Mind wandering and driving: responsibility case-control study

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 13 December 2012)
Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e8105

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The number of people who encounter accidents or die in such accidents sits on the top of the list in many countries. What causes those accidents at the neurological point of view taking mind-wandering as a factor brings out one single observation that a momentary loss of attention (because of being preoccupied by a thought or a gadget in hand like mobile phone or the co-passenger) results in such a tragedy.

As a person who drove nearly 600 kilometers in India between two cities every week continuously for five years as a professor, I know about such attention-deficit while driving. The first time when I met with such an accident I was seriously discussing a problem while driving. The vehicle which was approaching me in the opposite direction lost control and hit me directly. During that accident I escaped miraculously with minor injuries which made my colleague say that I had a lease of life and lease of sight (had a severe cut near my left eye). I had two or three times such accidents either because of being preoccupied with thoughts or events that took the attention away from driving. These accidents did not happen during my regular driving that I undertook for my profession during that five year period of continuous driving. At that time my mind was careful because I had a commitment to teach along with my commitment to my family. These accidents took place on a holiday trip when the mind all of a sudden was relaxed and there was lack of concentration on the task in hand.

Mind wandering could be a factor in many such accidents wherein your cognitive function over-rides your motor function. Or your motor function is compromised because of alcohol intake or a quarrel or a tragedy in the house. Often such mind wandering brings a loss that cannot be measured in terms of scientific enquiry when a dear one is lost in our family or in some other's family. Those moments of tragedy require more stringent actions, safety measures and precautions to be followed by those who drive or those who manufacture or those who regulate road traffic, including traffic control.

Competing interests: None declared

dhastagir s sheriff, Professor

Faculty of Medicine, Benghazi University, Benghazi, Libya

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Dear Sirs,

I would like to thank the authors for an interesting article on an interesting subject. It is particulalry fitting given the time of year.

It's important to note this was retrospective data collection . The authors themselves clearly define as a limitation.

The results concur with those of He et al (2011) who used a driving simulator to assess their participants.

The two studies compliment each other well, giving the same result, and the same message to us all!

He et al (2011) Mind Wandering Behind the Wheel Performance and Oculomotor Correlates Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society February 2011 vol. 53 no. 1 13-21

Competing interests: None declared

Thomas I Lemon, Medical Student

Cardiff University, c/o 5th floor Cochrane building

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