Could staying at home during the pandemic make you forget how to drive or park your car? According to a survey of United Kingdom drivers, that could be the case. 

A survey conducted by Hyundai found that twenty percent of the respondents had forgotten some of the key skills needed to operate a motor vehicle. 

The top ten mistakes reported by the survey respondents were:

  • Scraping the wheels on the curb
  • Forgot to turn the ignition key
  • Stalled the vehicle
  • Did not shut the door correctly
  • Had to think carefully about which pedals to use for what purpose 
  • Forgot where the gas cap was located
  • Struggled to parallel park
  • Did not fasten their seat belt
  • Failed to check mirrors when pulling away
  • Did not indicate when turning

Almost one-half of the respondents (48%) said they expected other drivers to be less safe than before the pandemic restrictions were put into place. 

The same driving crisis seems to be happening in the United States. According to an in-depth article by Angela Haupt in The Washington Post, many Americans are struggling with driving skills.

She interviewed several individuals for the article that reported they made mistakes when they got back behind the wheel of a vehicle after the shutdowns. From backing up to parking straight, people are struggling with some of the basic skills needed to drive.

What Do the Experts Say?

The author interviewed several experts about the subject, including Ronald C. Petersen, a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. According to Dr. Petersen, the memory patterns in our brains for behaviors that we may not have used in many months are still there. However, these memory patterns may need to be restimulated or reinvigorated. 

Driving is a procedural memory. Most of us operate a motor vehicle without thinking much about what we are doing. The skills are merely a reflex because we have practiced them for so long. 

According to Elizabeth Walshe, a research scientist with the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, there may be a “collective rustiness” because of the pandemic. We are not feeling as familiar with driving because we have not been practicing something that most of us did at least twice a day, if not more.

Another expert, Robert Kraft, has a different view. He is a professor of cognitive psychology at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio. Professor Kraft believes that while our basic skills for driving are still with us, the memories for more complicated driving tasks may have eroded. Professor Kraft stated that we have forgotten the person we become when we are in a car.

The Pandemic Saw an Increase in Motor Vehicle Deaths

According to the National Safety Council, the number of traffic fatalities in 2020 is estimated to be the highest number in 13 years. The motor vehicle deaths increased despite the substantial decrease in the number of miles driven in 2020.

According to Robert Wunderlich, director of the Center for Transportation Safety at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, people are driving faster and more carelessly now. He believes that drivers were more inclined to speed during the pandemic when there was less traffic. 

Higher rates of speed increase the risk of a speeding accident. Unfortunately, that dangerous driving behavior may continue, making the roads much less safe as more people return to work and normal daily activities. 

Practice, Practice, and Practice More

The good news is that experts believe that the skills needed for driving will return the more we drive. 

Driving will become natural again. According to Yusuke Yamani, an associate professor of psychology at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, individuals nervous about driving should focus on being aware of their surroundings and limiting distractions. 

Other tips that might be helpful for Texas drivers as they return to the roads post-pandemic include:

  • Try to remain calm
  • Give yourself additional time to avoid rushing 
  • Have your vehicle inspected and tuned up to ensure it is in top working condition
  • Turn your cell phone off or set it to silent
  • Allow drivers who are speeding or driving recklessly to pass your vehicle 

If you are involved in a traffic accident, remain calm. Call 911 to report the crash and wait for help. Do not engage the other driver, especially if the driver seems anxious or hostile.

As soon as possible, seek medical treatment for your injuries. If you are unsure whether you might be injured, it is best to be checked by a doctor. Some car accident injuries might not present symptoms for a few hours or days following the crash.

You may also want to seek legal advice from a Houston car accident lawyer. If the other driver caused the car accident, you could be entitled to compensation for damages and injuries.

Don’t let the insurance adjuster pressure you to accept a quick settlement offer. You have the right to legal counsel before accepting a settlement agreement. Ensure you know how much your personal injury claim is worth by exercising your right to seek legal advice before signing any insurance documents.