The Front of the Line Written by Spencer McDonald
One driving attitude that can get us into trouble and stress out is an obsession with getting around the guy in front of us.
Do you need to be at the front of the line?
Common sense tells us that there really is no front of the line to reach, so to try and get there by weaving through traffic and passing anyone in front of us is a losing proposition. We are reminded of this every time that slow guy, that we just passed, catches us at the next light!
(Don't you hate when that happens?)
Rushing through traffic in an attempt to get to the front of the line or to make up time when you are late just doesn't make sense. It's high risk driving, uses more fuel, it's stressful and leads to violations or worse. It just doesn't work.
We conducted a study a few years ago, using 3 of our instructors, who all came in from the same suburb of Vancouver, to see how much quicker hurrying through traffic would be. We assigned 2 different alternating driving styles for each driver to use on alternating days: one style was to get to the office as fast as possible and the other was to relax, choose a lane, stay in it and go with the flow. The rules for "getting there as fast as possible" were: no red light running, but push the yellows to the legal limit, no excessive speeding, change lanes to get ahead whenever you get past another car. The rules for "go with the flow": relax, leave a safe following distance, drive as perfectly, safely and defensively as possible.
What were the results after a month of gathering times? Depending on traffic, the commute took between 45 and 60 minutes daily but the most interesting result was that regardless of how heavy or difficult the traffic was, the get there "fast" group only saved an average of 3 minutes over the "defensive" group on any given day. A 3 minute saving at the cost of up to an hour of concerted aggressive driving! Not much of a pay off.
A better attitude to adopt is one where you choose a lane that works for you, stay in it, go with the flow and leave a comfortable space in front of you. Let someone else rush around you then smile and wave when you catch them all stressed out at the next light and you just cruise up relaxed and stress free.
When we expect traffic to be heavy and slow and choose an attitude of acceptance, we can relax and drive safely and defensively in the knowledge that it really doesn't take that much longer. Arrive calm, and ready for the day instead of frazzled and burned out before we even start work.
Seasoned professional drivers know this. They will tell you that the best strategy is acceptance of traffic conditions and a go with the flow attitude. Back in the day, a crusty old trucker, named Dick, taught me to drive trucks and said, "slow down and make time". Dick said that he loved it when he missed the light and caught a yellow. He said, "there's nothing like being front of the line and first off on the green!". Maybe there is a front of the line after all.
- Spencer McDonald, President,
President and founder of Thinking Driver, Spencer McDonald, has over 25 years of experience in designing driver safety training curriculums and instructor development. He has driver safety qualifications in all vehicle types and expertise in psychology, education, training and motivation that uniquely qualifies him to develop the attitude-based Thinking Driver programs.