The global pandemic may have grounded many flights in recent months. But when planes do venture into the skies, we prefer to keep them there for the expected duration. In occupations where other people’s lives are ‘in your hands’, significant effort goes in to preventing mistakes and accidents.

In the airline industry, for example, distractions are kept out of the cockpit, and procedures are designed to allow for full attention on the task rather than multi-tasking.

But what about driving for or to work? We know the potential consequences of distraction and inattention behind the wheel. So does your organisation have safe workplace driving procedures to keep workers safe? For example, calling drivers on a mobile phone to find their location can be distracting, using telematics to get the same information is not.

Mindfulness, and encouraging mindful driving, is one way to reduce vehicles crashes in your fleet and improve road safety performance in your workplace.

“In certain work environments where safety and preventing errors and accidents is really important, like in the airline industry, they understand mindfulness very well, although they may not always use that term,” says Monash University Associate Professor Craig Hassed.

“But they manage attention very effectively in the cockpit. They do not complex multitask, they do not break the flow of complex tasks, they do not distract themselves with unnecessary things.”

Operating on auto pilot?

Mindfulness can help us maintain attention when we’re driving and to recognise if we’re getting distracted, or operating on ‘auto pilot’, so we bring our focus back to driving.

It also helps us manage emotions, like anger and frustration, so we accept rather than react to the mistakes other road users will inevitably make.

Research has shown mindfulness is linked to improved driver safety by reducing internal and external distractions as well as unsafe driving behaviour, both intentional (for example, speeding) and unintentional (for example, driver error).

On the road, this translates to fewer crashes, injuries, infringement and road rage. The benefits of mindfulness also extend into the workplace, improving worker productivity and wellbeing.

Researchers at Monash University and its Accident Research Centre (MUARC), who are keen to develop and test a driver-specific mindfulness program, will present an NRSPP webinar in mid-November on the road safety and wider workplace benefits of mindfulness.

Mindfulness and the pandemic

MUARC Associate Professor Sjaan Koppel adds that being a mindful driver can be even more important when people may be feeling more anxious or stressed. By a global pandemic, for example.

“The environment with COVID at the moment and all of this uncertainty, there might be added stressors on drivers or workers and so mindfulness might be a way to help mitigate some of that stress while they’re driving or while they’re in the workplace,” she says.

“Even as we emerge from restrictions, we’re going to have a tough road economically ahead of us. If people are worried about whether their contracts are going to be renewed or whether they’re going to be paid next week, that can often play on their mind when they should be focusing on driving.”


Read the ‘When Half A Second Matters: Mindfulness Drives Road Safety’ Thought Leadership piece to find out more about the road and workplace benefits of mindfulness, and register here for the ‘Road safety and other workplace benefits of mindfulness’ webinar on November 17.


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