I’m in the engagement business. No — not the romantic kind. Engagement, motivation, incentives. My firm develops systems to improve and sustain healthy corporate cultures, with safety being our primary focus.

Yet, even with my heightened sense of awareness about safety in general, and engagement in particular, I am an occasional bonehead. For example, one busy morning I passed my administrative assistant in the hallway. “Did you know your car is running, Jon?” she asked with a smirk. I’d parked the car and was so distracted with my thoughts that I’d left the keys in the ignition with the engine running…for over two hours.

This means that I was also completely distracted on the drive to the office. And I’m not alone. How often do we fail to remember anything about the drive we just took? We pilot ton-and-a-half hunks of metal down a crowded highway while talking on the phone, listening to angry talk-show hosts, drinking our coffee and thinking about what will greet us at work. And we might be a bit sleep-deprived to boot.

While our brains are miraculous machines that give us the ability to call up past experiences, analyze current situations, predict likely outcomes, form an action plan, and begin execution all within a second or two, we still make mistakes behind the wheel almost every day. I’m not a driving instructor, but if I were, here are my suggestions for the top six ways we all flunk out of Driving 101:

1 Gorillas in our mist

A few years back Daniel Simmons developed a method of demonstrating visual cognitive ability. Study participants watched a video clip of students passing basketballs to each other. Some of the students wore white t-shirts, others black. Participants had to count the number of times the basketball was passed among only the white t-shirt kids. Following the clip, everyone gave their counts. In almost every instance, at least half of the audience never saw the guy in the gorilla suit pass through the scene. This test can be repeated over and over, and more than 50 percent of the audience will fail to see the gorilla. When in the driver’s seat, we don’t need a cell phone in our ear or a coffee cup about to spill or a screaming kid in the backseat. We can be perfectly blind to what’s on the other side of the windshield on our own.

2 Too much going on

Years ago, I had this slick, red convertible. One fine summer day, top down, I was listening to music full-blast wearing my Bose noisereducing headphones. Not the buds…the big honkers that go over your ears! I got pulled over by the California Highway Patrol and was sent on my way with just a warning. The point is, we all take chances with what we do every day. Can you imagine wearing headphones during a driving test? Or balancing the Egg McMuffin on your knee while trying to open those impossible orange juice containers at 65 MPH? How about something we all do — looking down at the radio to change the station? We’ve come to believe that eight miles per hour over the freeway speed limit is perfectly safe or that changing lanes without a turn signal is fine and dandy when you have a lot of experience. Of course, there are thousands of dead drivers who had the same mindset.

3 Car as weapon

Not me…not you. The other guy has road rage. We’ve never increased our speed to deny a fast-approaching vehicle the victory of passing us or locked our adversary out of a lane-splitting advantage. And we’ve never given the single finger salute to an equally aggressive road warrior, or found our blood boiling as we screamed obscenities. Yeah, right.

4 Over-confidence

Is there one among us who has logged over half-amillion miles who is willing to admit they need improvement in their driving skills and knowledge? Yet how many of us would be able to pass the written test at our local DMV if we were given 30 minutes notice? And how would we do on a closed track with a series of courses to test our spin control, obstacle avoidance and braking reaction speed? Can you name the five points in the Smith System? Smith who?

5 Not enough room

Without a doubt, the greatest cause of vehicular accidents and death is the lack of a space cushion around your vehicle. The Smith System is one of the pioneers of this concept. The five keys are to aim high in steering, get the big picture, keep your eyes moving, leave yourself an out, and make sure they see you. Brilliant. Learn this again and again.

6 Familiarity breeds contempt

Statistics show that one-third of all accidents occur within one mile of home. Do we all turn into jockeys, racing for the finish line in the final lap? Or, because we know the streets and don’t have to concentrate on directions, do we relax and take on new distractions? I’ve known two different people in my lifetime who, while backing out of their driveways, ran over a child, causing their death. Sobering, to be sure.

Be fully engaged

I conclude my set of wake-up calls with a standard refrain you’ve become familiar with if you’ve read my articles or attended my seminars. Engage fully in the process in which you are involved. Consider that at the point where the highest levels of skill converge with the greatest challenges, you will be in what psychologists call “the flow.” Your abilities become effortless, your peripheral awareness highly tuned. Fully engaged drivers — and workers — are productive and successful. And they get to go home to their families every day.