Despite what you might believe, taking the road less traveled as part of your daily commute could help keep you and the passengers in your vehicle safer. That’s because crash-related research in many countries has repeatedly shown that the area closest to where you live is the most dangerous place for you to drive.

A significant number of crashes will occur within 25 miles of one or more of the involved drivers’ residences. In other words, it is exactly when you feel the safest on the road that you are likely at the highest risk for a potential collision.

Familiarity leads to tuning out the drive process

Have you ever pulled into your garage after a long day at work and realize as you put your car into park that you can’t recall the last 10 minutes of travel time? When humans engage in habitual, routine procedures, it is possible for the basal ganglia and brainstem, also known as the reptilian brain, to take over the process.

Unfortunately, that may mean that you aren’t paying adequate attention when driving on roads close to home. The more frequently you take the same route and roads, the more likely it is for your brain to go on autopilot when you drive, reducing how carefully you might monitor your surroundings and increasing the risk of a crash.

People close to home often get hurt because they expect a quick trip

As if the lack of attention wasn’t dangerous enough, drivers close to home also often fall victim to their own sense of confidence. They may think that since they’re just running out to the corner store or driving a mile or two that there’s no reason for them to put on their seat belt.

A lack of safety restraints can play a significant role in the increased risk for injury or death in the collisions that take place close to your home. Reducing your risk can involve two separate steps. First of all, commit to wearing your seat belt every time you get in your vehicle, even if you’re only driving from one end of the block to the other.

Secondly, make it a habit to change up the way you drive home, even if it means your commute takes a few extra minutes on various days. The more different routes you take and the more frequently you vary your daily commute, the less likely it is that your autopilot will kick in and leave you at increased risk for a crash.