The Myers-Briggs Type Inventory describes the difference between sensing (S) and intuitive (N) types here. Briefly, S types are prone to pay closer attention to what is physically happening around them. N types are much less prone to pay attention to what is literally happening around them and focus their energy on ideas, concepts and possibilities instead.
I'd be willing to bet five whole dollars that my great-grandfather was the intuitive type. Here is the evidence on which I base my assertion. My mother's mother tells a story in which her father (uncharacteristically) ran a red light. He was then promptly pulled over and issued a citation. The officer said something to the effect of, "what happened?" and my great-grandfather replied thoughtfully, "well... I was just thinking about Moses..." It became a great family joke.
I have not run a red light in such a manner. I have, however, waited for a stop sign to turn green, turned on the wrong street, taken the wrong off-ramp, driven miles past my turn or exit and most recently and horrifyingly blew right through a stop sign in. a. school. zone. It was a three-way stop and thank GOD there were no children present. There weren't any cars, either, and were it not for a lady walking within view of the intersection who expressively threw up her arms and gave me a look that said, "WTF are you thinking?" as I passed, I might never have realized. I noticed her, furrowed my brow in thought, considered possible reasons for her actions, looked around to see if she was communicating with anyone else, and OMG THAT WAS A STOP SIGN AND I DIDN'T EVEN SLOW DOWN.
I was absolutely appalled at myself and more than a little nauseous at what might have happened if circumstances were different. Completely horrifying.
It's one thing to drive while distracted by a phone or iPod or the food in your lap or while reaching for something behind the passenger seat. Those things are fairly easy to self-regulate. But to be distracted by your very own brain?! How can I escape that? It often takes quite a bit of conscious effort (or small children) for me to actively remain in the present moment. And when I am, I'm often immediately bored and my mind wanders off to find something more entertaining to ponder. I go on auto-pilot and though I may look "there" I might not be. I'm almost always thinking about completely unrelated things in addition to whatever thing or task currently has some of my attention and focus. My strongly S-type husband is frequently baffled by my honest replies to his, "what are you thinking about?" He can't understand how or why I'd be thinking about _____ or what would cause me to remember _____. I shrug. I don't know either. It's just what I do.
Except I've got to find a way that ensures I will NOT do it as much while driving. Suggestions?