Five Fundamentals – Managing the Risk Lottery

Do you buy lottery tickets?  I do.  Our chances of winning big are really quite slim and yet every month we still buy those tickets in hope of getting lucky.  As they say; if you don’t play, you can’t win!  The more tickets that you buy… The greater your chances, so some of us buy plenty!

Driving risk is in many ways like buying lottery tickets, only it’s kind of an anti-lottery… You see, the probability of disaster because you take a chance is also slim, but you might just hit the jackpot that one time and end up in a serious crash.  And some of us are heavy players in the risk lottery with much better chances of hitting the jackpot.

The fourth out of the Thinking Driver Fundamental is MANAGE THE RISK.  In previous installments, we have covered: “Think and Look Ahead”, “Anticipate Hazards” and “Keep Your Options Open”.  These are basic fundamental defensive driving skills.  “Manage the Risk” has much more to do with your attitude or decision making process once you practise the first three fundamentals.

In every driving situation that we find ourselves in, there will be risks that we face.  What we do with these risks and how we make smart decisions about them is what sets a thinking driver apart from a reckless player in the risk lottery; the one lottery that none of us hope to win.

Some of the chances that we take are calculated and thought through before we take them, like speeding.  We feel late, rushed and have an urge to make up time so we choose to speed and take a risk and the risk lottery ticket that with luck won’t pay off this time.  Other times, we allow ourselves to develop habits that are like the automatic purchase without even thinking about it.

Thinking drivers drive to minimize risk and prevent incidents in spite of the actions of other drivers and the current conditions including traffic, weather, road condition, lighting and their own condition.  Minimizing risk requires only that you THINK about what could possibly go wrong in any given situation and act in advance to reduce the risk.  In time it just becomes a habit.  Generally this practise won’t cost you anything in time and in the long run, could keep you out of the winner’s circle in the driving risk lottery.

A good example of this is yellow lights.  While you wouldn’t necessarily know it to watch most intersections, the law (and best practise for intersection safety) is to stop on yellow unless you are unable to safely get stopped in which case it is not required.  Lately, it seems like most drivers treat yellow as a message to “hurry up its almost red!”  When this becomes a habit, you are piling up those risk lottery tickets and increasing your chances of hitting the jackpot one day when everyone else doesn’t look out for you.

You may hope to, but don’t really expect to win the 649 or Powerball lottery though do you?  But what would your life look like if you did?  But it could happen, it’s happened to others!  Why not you?  That’s what keeps us buying those tickets.

No more need to work, security for your kids; their education and future, relaxing vacations in the sun, a new house, new car, no bills to worry about… the perfect life…

What is the possible result of hitting the jackpot in the risk lottery though?  In North America every year, thousands of drivers, passengers and other road users hit this jackpot with tragic results.

No more ABILITY to work, no way to ensure your kids go to college or university, physical pain or disability, medical bills for expenses not covered by your plan, loss of health and perhaps mobility.  Unless you hit the big jackpot: Then no more you, and this results in all of the pain and grief suffered by those you leave behind.

Play any lottery long enough and eventually it will be your turn.  If you don’t play, you can’t win.

So which lottery are you playing?

Written by: Spencer McDonald, President, Thinking Driver

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