Thinking-Driver-Logo
Tuesday, 18 June 2013 00:00

I'm a liar. There, I said it. I lie.

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I lie sometimes when I'm in a social situation and my line of work is questioned. If I know I'll never see these folks again, I might just tell them that I'm a painter. "I paint houses" I might say.

Now, I have been in the driver safety/training business for almost 3 decades, I hold pretty much every vehicle related training license available, I have been hired as a consultant to 2 different governments to develop licensing programs including road testing, I have trained hundreds of emergency vehicle operators including police pursuit training and authored numerous training courses, manuals and articles. But, sometimes, when asked what I do, I claim to be a house painter. Not that I think painting houses is a more worthy line of work than mine or that I'm ashamed of my profession, it's just that few people have strong opinions about house painting; how it should be done or not done or wants to start a debate to prove that the YOU paint isn't really right. If I say "I'm a house painter", my conversational partner will reply in a rather disinterested tone with eyes glazed over "oh, how interesting" and look desperately for someone whom they judge to actually BE interesting.

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I lie because if I say I'm a driver safety training professional and have to explain just what that is, the next question or comment directed at me is usually about the accident that someone was in or ticket that someone got that 'clearly' was not their fault. They want to tell me the whole story of how the weather that day was particularly nasty, how the road has that strange dip, how the car in front "just stopped" for no reason making them run into the back of him. They want to tell me why the policeman who wrote them a ticket was wrong to do so. I have listened while otherwise seemingly intelligent people argue that they should not have received that speeding ticket because everyone else was speeding too!

What they really want is for me to agree with them.

I have learned to engage in these conversations at my peril. You see, as soon as I offer even the slightest of professional opinion about the apparent circumstances of the crash that they were in, mention the concept of preventability or point out that indeed, if they were speeding, the fact that everyone else was too isn't a very good excuse. (Mom always asked me if everyone else jumped off the bridge would I jump too?)

As soon as I disagree at all with the rightness of their position, or offer a different perspective, any credibility that I may have had with them initially, is gone. I become, in their eyes, an idiot. And I wish that I had said, "I'm a painter".

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Funny thing about driving, EVERYONE thinks that they are an expert when in fact most people are woefully uninformed about some of the most basic of rules and regulations, defensive driving principles and tactics. Moreover, most people have an overinflated opinion of their own driving ability. A dangerous combination, I believe.

This condition, I think, points to one of the most fundamental reasons why we continue to have so many crashes. If we all believe that there is nothing wrong with our driving, that we know all that there is to know about driving, that we are all superbly skilled, expert drivers and everyone else is the problem, then we are unlikely to expend any energy to make improvements or to even learn from our mistakes.

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So next time when you climb behind the wheel, ask yourself, "How's my driving?". Really analyse how you are doing instead of noting everyone else's mistakes and complaining about how bad everyone else is. Ask yourself if there are any bad habits that have crept in over the years that you could work on. Just don't assume that you couldn't possibility get any better. When life sends you feedback on your driving by way of a close call or a ticket, don't be so fast to blame someone else, there may be a valuable lesson that you are missing?

Who knows, you may just prevent that next ticket or incident.

Me? I'm still banking on never meeting someone who actually needs a house painter at one of those gatherings! So far so good.....

- Written by Spencer McDonald, President, Thinking Driver, Surrey, BC

spencer

Published in NEWS
Tuesday, 18 June 2013 00:00

TD LogoThinking Driver will be at the following events!

Association of School Transportation Services BC (ASTSBC) Conference - July 8 - 11, 2013 at the Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel, Richmond, BC (more information)

Canadian Society of Safety Engineering (CSSE) Professional Development Conference - September 15 - 18, 2013 at the Fairmont the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, Montreal, QC (more information)

 

Published in NEWS
Tuesday, 18 June 2013 00:00

spencerSpencer McDonald, President of Thinking Driver - Upcoming Speaking Engagements

Canadian Society of Safety Engineering (CSSE) Professional Development Conference - '8 Critical Elements of a Successful Driver Safety Program' - Tuesday, September 17, 2013 at 2:30 pm - Fairmount the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, Montreal, QC (more information)

 

Published in NEWS
Tuesday, 07 January 2014 00:00

Feature Article

In this month's feature, Spencer McDonald discusses the importance of managing the risks in traffic.

lottery ticket

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 risks 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 4th of Thinking Driver's Five Fundamentals is:

MANAGE THE RISK.

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 lottery that none of us hope to win.

speed

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 option for a lottery ticket pool...we make the purchase without even thinking about it.

A good example of this is yellow lights. While you wouldn't necessarily know it to watch most intersections, the law (and best practice 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 it's 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.

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 conditions, lighting and their own conditions. 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 winners circle in the driving risk lottery.

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 you plan, loss of health and perhaps mobility. Unless you hit the big jackpot: Then no more you, and all of the pain and grief suffered by those that you leave behind.

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

So which lottery are you playing?

gavel (2)

(Reprinted as previously published in Canadian Occupational Safety Magazine.)

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Published in NEWS
Friday, 17 January 2014 00:00

Feature Article

In this month's feature, the 5th of Thinking Driver's Five Fundamentals, Control with Finesse, is discussed.

Legend Pic

There is only one fundamental goal in vehicle control for performance and racing, fuel economy and reduced wear and tear or enhanced safety. That goal is: drive with smoothness and finesse.

I was paid what I think is the highest compliment the other day by a friend who was describing my driving to a colleague. He said, "When Spencer is driving, nothing seems to be happening; no excitement, no surprises, nothing abrupt, just smooth flow through traffic." It wasn't always that way though. When I was a young man, I thought that I knew what good driving was; you stomped the gas and cranked the steering wheel. I thought good drivers had the skill and guts to drive close to other vehicles, zip past and fly down the road.

Boy was I wrong!

That style of driving cost me huge fines for speeding. Eventually my license was suspended for 3 months within the first 24 months of getting it. My style of aggressive, sloppy driving cost me multiple brake jobs because I wore out brakes like you can't imagine, and I had 3 crashes in 3 years all before I was 20 years old. The reality is that I was one of the WORST drivers on the road. Even after all those tickets and crashes, I still figured that I was a great driver. I was indeed a legend in my own mind!

I thought that because race car drivers went fast, if I went fast too, I would be like a race car driver and that's good driving right? It wasn't until years later that I understood just why race car drivers are able to go fast and stay in control; Smoothness.

race car driver

Yes, the best race drivers are the smoothest...they have the most finesse with brakes, accelerators and steering and they apply the principles of good vision, anticipation, space management and risk reduction to ensure that they never have to do anything abruptly and upset the balance of the vehicle.

When it comes down to it, traction, or the grip that your tires have with the road, is dependent on multiple factors, but the one that is most changeable moment to moment and controllable by the driver is the vehicle's balance and loading on each wheel/tire. It's an easy concept: if you have vehicle weight distributed over all tires (balanced), you are pushing the tires into the road with the vehicle weight and creating traction or friction. This is critical even if you are not a race car driver or driving at race car speeds.

What kind of driver are you? You almost certainly believe that you are a great driver, but are you, like I was, a legend in your own mind?

If you strive for smoothness in your daily driving, you will save fuel, reduce the wear and tear on your vehicle (especially brakes) and enhance safety by reducing risk. Practising smoothness also makes smooth control second nature which is critical if a sudden crisis does develop. Smooth balanced control helps ensure that you maintain traction and reduces the likelihood of a skid.

seat position

It's not difficult to cultivate a smooth driving style. You start by sitting correctly in your vehicle with you back close to upright and pressed back into the seat. Your left foot braced on the dead pedal and the heel of your right foot on the floor prepares you to control the accelerator and brake precisely by squeezing and easing on the pedal to manage the vehicle weight shift from front to back.

total control steering

Your arms should be bent slightly at the elbows when you hold the steering wheel at 9 and 3 (yes 9 and 3!), then use the total control or push/pull method to turn the steering wheel.This will smooth out your cornering and manage the lateral weight shift when you turn.

Smooth driving is the hallmark of racing champions but also of professionals like police and other emergency vehicle operators.

Here is the litmus test of smooth and professional driving: are your passengers comfortable? Do they remark on how relaxed your driving makes them feel or are you hearing comments (or jokes) about your driving or gasps and sharp intakes of breath? Perhaps you should cultivate smoothness and become an excellent driver in reality instead of a legend in your own mind.

 

spencer

By Spencer McDonald, President, Thinking Driver (Reprinted as previously published in Canadian Occupational Safety Magazine.)

Published in NEWS
Monday, 31 March 2014 00:00

Feature Article

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Motorcycles are the safest vehicles on the road right up until the point of impact.

I have been a rider since 1972 and enjoyed riding everything from mini bikes with lawnmower engines to 100 plus horsepower sport and touring bikes.

I love my motorcycles: my BMW 1200RT is called ‘Alice (the missile)’, and ‘Hugo’ is a Kawasaki KLR 650 (you name your vehicles too, right?).  I love riding off-road and touring on the highway and have been as far north as Whitehorse and south to Arizona.

In 1975, I won a trophy for being the first junior in Canada in the National Observed Trials competition (I ask myself sometimes: That was almost 40 years ago, should I still be bragging about it?).

But old or not, in the coming months, I will be heading off to the Grand Canyon via the Oregon Coast and Las Vegas on ‘Alice, the missile’

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I, and thousands of other riders, begin to appear on the highways this time of year. Too many will not see the end of the riding season. Some will crash their bikes due to over-exuberant riding or overconfidence, which is unfortunate; but many more will lose in a collision with anther vehicle.

We riders say that motorcycles are the safest vehicles on the road because they accelerate out of danger, stop quicker and are more maneuverable than pretty much any other vehicle. We like to think that we can ride out of most dangerous situations.

The problem is that, too often, we are just simply not seen and the other driver does something to cause a collision that we can’t avoid. A motorcycle is the safest vehicle on the road, right up until the point of impact.

We are vulnerable road users and when we tangle with a car, the car generally wins.

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When a motorcycle and another vehicle collide, it's most often the other driver's fault. The situation that is most common is the other driver turning left in front of the motorcyclist. The car driver typically doesn't see the motorcycle or actually sees the rider but misjudges the approach speed and thinks there is time to turn, because a motorcycle is small when viewed from the front, and this makes speed estimation problematic.

Motorcycles are tough to see and, if you are not looking for them, very easy to miss. They handle much differently than other vehicles and have some special characteristics. If you don't really understand them, they can be difficult to share the road with.

Some easy guidelines for you to apply a you see motorcycle riders this spring and summer will help keep everyone safer.

  • When you are waiting at intersections to turn left, remember that you may have more than just cars and trucks approaching and look for motorcycles. If you see a rider approaching, make sure that they are coming at a speed that allows you to turn safely in front of them before starting your turn.
  • Remember that a motorcycle can stop in a fraction of the distance that your car or SUV can so leave a good following distance. If the rider brakes suddenly for some reason and you are too close, you will not be able to slow quickly enough to avoid her. Normally, under ideal conditions we suggest a following distance of at least 3 seconds behind a motorcycle. Add more distance if conditions deteriorate.motorbike in mirror
  • When you change lanes, check your mirror and should check to make sure there is no motorcycle in your blind spot. Most of us riders work hard to stay out of blind spots, but if you don't shoulder check before changing lanes, you will never be sure the lane change is safe.
  • When you are stopped behind a motorcycle, leave a good space. It feels very intimidating to have a large vehicle stopped really close behind you.

motorcycle-sign

This spring, take a moment to think about and practise these tips to help you stay out of conflict with us riders and share the road.

Written by: Spencer McDonald, President, Thinking Driver

(Reprinted as previously published in Canadian Occupational Safety Magazine)

Published in NEWS
Monday, 28 April 2014 00:00

akumal-beach-resortAh Mexico; sun, sand, surf and tequila. Dancing in the Drunken Duck Bar...

Oh yes, and Mexican public transportation. YIKES!

After twenty-something years of teaching from the passenger seat of everything from heavy trucks and fire apparatus to police cars and pick-up trucks, I have developed a pretty good sense of where any vehicle I’m riding in is on the road; that is, where the corners are and where the tires are contacting the pavement. So when I rode into town from our little condo on the north side of Bucerias, just north of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, in a mini bus/van, it was clear to me long before the accident that we were going to hit the curb.

mexico_city_bus

HARD.

Yet, I wondered as we came barreling up the shoulder passing the traffic in an attempt to get to the bus stop 3 seconds sooner if perhaps the bus driver actually did know where the passenger side tires were and we would miss that sharp, broken, 6-inch curb-end that looked to me like the destination of our right front passenger wheel, which was right under my butt!

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I got my answer when I heard the BANG as we hit the curb at around 60 km/h. We bounced about a foot or so up and landed back on the road (and not down the small embankment to the right) which was fortunate as my guess is that no-one including the driver (or me) was wearing a seat belt (yes I looked for them, no they were not accessible). If there were shocks on that wheel before the launch, they certainly weren’t going to work well after that bump!

In Canada, for every 100,000 people we see about 9.2 traffic fatalities every year. In the U.S. there are just over 12. In Mexico, there are over 20; more than twice the rate of Canada. For every 100,000 registered vehicles, we see a Canadian fatality rate of 13/year but in Mexico, the rate is almost 80!

Having said that...worldwide, Mexico is still a bit better than average.

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Our driver stopped the van and cursed briefly (and apparently skillfully) in Spanish while pounding the steering wheel then limped the van to the bus stop which was our original destination. He got out without a word of explanation and began to change the wheel. The one coming off had a ‘V’ shaped bend about 5-inches deep from the curb edge and was completely ruined. The tire had come off completely by then and was lying back on the highway while everyone else on the highway just drove around, past or over it.

The rest of us piled off the bus and waited about 90 seconds for the next one, got on like there was nothing wrong and we were on our way again. “That was interesting”, I said to a fellow traveller who looked like he had been in Bucerias for a while (like…since 1978). He shrugged and said, “TMO; Typical Mexican Operation”.

I love Mexico. I love the people, the culture, the food, the pace of life and while there is much in the press about the violence generated in the drug trade, I never saw any evidence of that, nor did I worry too much about getting caught in the cross fire. What I did worry about was getting from one place to another on the highway!

un-pesero

This incident in the mini bus got me thinking though; thinking about how many people really don’t know the dimensions of their vehicle, like where the tires are on the roadway or where the corners of the bumpers are. When I trained police, one of the exercises was accuracy in tire placement. We required the candidate to accurately drive over a moderately sized marker to prove that she knew where the tires actually were on the road. This type of practise if you have never done it will help you get better sense of your vehicle size and ‘footprint’. You can do it in your driveway at home with anything small enough to drive over yet high enough to feel, like a small stone. Try it some time. It will help with parking and slow speed manoeuvres and give you a greater sense of control.

And it may also prepare you to see it coming if you have a similar experience as me in a foreign land!

Written by: Spencer McDonald, President, Thinking Driver

(Reprinted as previously published in Canadian Occupational Safety Magazine)

Published in NEWS
Monday, 02 June 2014 00:00

Feature Article

Art Linkletter

Art Linkletter, the entertainer, said, "If you change your attitude you will change your life."

Wouldn't it be nice if we always got our way with things?  If things were as they SHOULD be?  Unfortunately, the world usually doesn't meet our expectations and we are left disappointed that people and things are not what they SHOULD be.

Did you ever know someone with an attitude of 'nothing ever goes my way'?  You may have a friend or colleague or even a family member with this attitude!  My friend Steve certainly does.

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I like Steve, but I sometimes find him exhausting to be around, especially when he's driving and I'm the passenger.  Don't get me wrong...it's not that he's a bad driver, it's just that he finds fault with everything and everyone around him.  He's quick to verbalize his displeasure too.

You know the type; "that guy should get off my tail and quit tailgating me"; "someone should build more roads and widen the ones we have to reduce this stupid congestion"; "people should learn to drive properly"; "we shouldn't let new immigrants drive without more training and testing"; "that idiot should have signaled before turning".

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It goes on and on.  Steve wouldn't call himself a complainer or even a particularly negative person; he would just say that he knows how things should be.

Some days it seems like nothing is right for Steve.  Everything should be different.  It really bugs him and when things don't go Steve's way, someone else is always to blame.

Steve lives in the world of SHOULD.

In Steve's world of SHOULD, nothing and no one is good enough, right enough or fair enough and should be different (according to Steve).  Steve knows how everyone else SHOULD drive and is disappointed daily when his expectations are not met.

What Steve doesn't realize is that with his attitude of finding fault and 'SHOULDING' at everything and everybody, he's actually giving away his power and turning himself into a negative, critical, judgemental driver who is caught up in everyone else's driving that he upsets himself and gets stressed out as a result.

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This is a concept called 'locus of control'.  What this refers to is where we place the power of control over the events in our lives.  If we place the control and responsibility for our sense of happiness, contentment and safety outside of ourselves we have an EXTERNAL locus of control like Steve.

If we live in the world of SHOULD, and expect that things should change and be different if only SOMEONE would do something, we are in fact placing the control of our happiness or contentment outside of ourselves.

We will be happy when someone fixes everything that bugs us.

But there is no one making these fixes.  Steve has spent his entire life complaining about how things should be different and he is in a perpetual state of disappointment that things are not as they should be.

This isn't to say that things couldn't be a lot better in many areas, but what's the point of complaining if you are either unable or unwilling to take action to make them better.

What about your expectations?  Do you get out of bed each morning hoping that this will FINALLY be that perfect day?  When you never get cut off, traffic lights are cooperative and green, the sun is shining and everyone is moving along at the perfect speed (for you)?  As one student said to me, "you are dreaming, baby!" that's never going to happen.

It is possible to change your world view from the world of SHOULD to the world of IS.  In the world of IS, we accept how things are and take action to deal with them.  Unlike Steve, we then see results.  So you don't like that guy tailgating, simply do something to change the situation.  Move over, let him pass, slow down a bit and increase following distance.  Realize that just because you think that he SHOULD stop tailgating you, that wishing he would not, will not make that so.  If you can't do anything about it at the moment, be aware of him there, but why get caught up in complaining?  It just reinforces a sense of powerlessness.

mindset

A great way to move out of a mindset of negativity is to make a point of noticing when things do go well and being grateful for them.  Take it a step further and make a point of daily noting EVERYTHING that you are grateful for in your life.  This is a powerful tool to change a negative outlook and the express ticket out of the world of SHOULD.

Written by: Spencer McDonald, President, Thinking Driver

About the Author - Spencer McDonald is a respected authority on driver behaviour, psychology and training, and is the founder of Thinking Driver.  To learn more about Mr. McDonald, please visit www.thinkingdriver.com.

(Reprinted as previously published in Canadian Occupational Safety Magazine).

Published in NEWS
Friday, 25 July 2014 00:00

Feature Article

ChrisHadfield-300x300

Being an astronaut is probably one of the most dangerous jobs.  Chris Hadfield, the Canadian astronaut who flew on the International Space Station in 2013 for 5 months and was its commander most of that time, says that this dangerous mission was the culmination of his career that began in the Canadian military where he was a fighter pilot, then a test pilot, then finally an astronaut.

Hadfield said in an interview after the mission that he isn't a risk taker by nature and in fact he is risk averse and even afraid of heights.  He tries to reduce the risk in every activity that he does by being aware, education himself about the risk and preventive ways to migrate or reduce that risk, and as he calls it, by practising 'negative thinking'.

He says that here is a lot of popular psychology these days about the power of positive thinking but he relies more on negative thinking.  Thinking that asks, "What could go wrong here?"

Once engineers analyze and identify the risks and dangers in the mission, activity or task, they can plan how to reduce that risk and how to implement a primary plan and a backup plan if the first risk reducing strategy fails.  Only after doing everything reasonable to reduce the risks of an incident or accident, does the mission go forward with confidence that everything that can reasonably be done, has been done.

Does that eliminate risk though?  Absolutely not.

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Space travel is inherently risky, as we have seen from the several tragedies dating back to the Apollo days and through two shuttle missions lost with all crew members, so even after taking every conceivable precaution, something can still go wrong.

cars driving

Most of us will never become astronauts, but driving is no different than space travel as an inherently risky activity and an activity where things can also go terribly wrong even after taking every defensive precaution.  The risks involved with driving are even more difficult to identify and the defences more uncertain than ones involving space travel in some ways.  At NASA, everyone is on the same team and working towards the same safe and incident free outcome.  We share the roads with strangers who may or may not take the same care we do.

NASA engineers are controlling risks involving generally predictable equipment and machinery failure.  We have to deal with the uncertainty of unpredictable human behaviour in people that we don't even know.

Car-Accident-Blog

Driving is likely the most dangerous thing that you can do.  Your chances of being killed or injured while driving or riding in a vehicle are greater than any other activity that most people do.  Traveling by automobile is many times more dangerous than any other mode of transportation.

Waiting-in-Airport

It's funny, most of us have sat in a departure terminal waiting to board an airplane and have had at least the passing thought, "I hope this isn't the time that something goes wrong."  Or they have been on the plane when there has been turbulence and the plane started bouncing around and thought, "This is it, now we are all going to die."

But we don't: Except in rare and tragic cases.  And the number of these occurrences and the number of fatalities involved pale in comparison to the numbers that are killed every year on the nation's highways.

guy in car

But have you ever thought before climbing behind the wheel, "What I'm about to do is dangerous.  If either myself or any of the hundreds or thousands of people that I will share the road with today, people that I don't know, have never nor will ever meet and know nothing about, screw up, I could end up badly hurt or killed."

We don't think those thoughts, though.  Not most of us.

I saw a t-shirt once that said, "I am a bomb disposal technician.  If you see me running, try to keep up"

Some activities are just so dangerous that most of us don't even consider engaging in them. But not driving.

Yet driving is the leading cause of unintentional death at 10.9 fatalities per population of 100,000 according to the Centers for Disease Control.

If you drive as part of your job, it's the most likely way that you will be injured on the job, too.

So the next time you slip behind the wheel, think about yourself as a fighter pilot or astronaut.  Not the daring and risk taking Buck Rogers, hero of screen and story, but the real thing: A thoughtful and skilled technician and expert at negative thinking, assessing situations and reducing the risk of accident.

Chris Hadfield

That way, like Chris did, we can all come home safely.

Written by: Spencer McDonald, President, Thinking Driver

(Reprinted as previously published in Canadian Occupational Safety Magazine.)

spencer

About the Author - Spencer McDonald is a respected authority on driver behaviour, psychology and training, and is the founder of Thinking Driver.  To learn more about Mr. McDonald, please visit www.thinkingdriver.com.

Published in NEWS
Wednesday, 03 September 2014 00:00

karmaI recently exited a parking lot in my area into a lane that immediately ended and required me to merge left into the through lane.  You know the situation, where people charge up the right side and squeeze in?  I signalled and settled in to wait a while as the line of traffic was steady as far back as I could see and I'm not the 'force my way in' type of guy (anymore).

To my surprise and delight, the first car that had the opportunity, braked and waved me in and I joined the line.  After completing my lane change, I waved back with my right hand from inside ("Thanks") and the generous driver, who let me in, flashed his lights back ("No problem, you're welcome").  I smiled. Good karma indeed!

courtesy wave

Such an easy moment, a light touch on the brakes, a casual gesture and I'm in line without drama or frustration. I'm happy to have been let in and he appreciated my thanks.  It got me thinking: I see countless acts of courtesy every day when I drive but I listen to endless diatribes from others about how discourteous everyone is these days on the road.  What's going on here?

I believe in karma - You get what you give... you attract to you, events and experiences that are consistent with the behaviour that you practise and your beliefs and expectations.  If you expect others to be jerks about their driving, you watch for it and naturally notice it.  As a consequence, you may feel justified in driving like a jerk yourself and attract even more jerks and discourteous drivers into your experience as they react to your driving style.

3343167-a-young-man-that-is-driving-seems-to-be-experiencing-some-minor-road-rage[1]

Now, you could choose to drive aggressively and defend your actions by arguing that this is the only way to deal with all the idiots on the road, but this attitude betrays an underlying belief that defensive driving means that the best defense is a strong offense.    You may or may not be religious or spiritual, go to church or pray, meditate or practice a faith at all, but fundamentally we all know right from wrong and retaliation or aggression isn't the answer.

peace

Every spiritual leader ever, professed peace and the importance of tolerance, forgiveness and the inherent goodness in all others regardless of their behaviour in the moment.  You and I have both behaved badly at some point but has that doomed us to purgatory and forever tarnished us as a bad person?

We recently lost Nelson Mandela who was an inspiration to the entire world and he said that 'resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies'.

In fact, we are all imperfect people struggling to find our way through life, some more skilled in some ways and less in others.  Compassion and forgiveness is an appropriate response to poor driving skills seen in others or even intentional aggressive driving.

Karma is Karma.  You get what you give.  Whatever you believe about driving and other drivers, it's going to be true... for you.  And treating others poorly will just come back to you someday.

But what if you chose a different reality?  What if you could choose to think differently and try out different driving behaviour.  You will certainly get what you give in this case also.  Will you stop seeing or experiencing discourteous drivers?  Likely not, but you will begin to attract and notice the good guys out there that don't tailgate, and do let you in, that don't block the fast lane, that signal and wait for a gap instead of forcing the issue.  You will continue to get what you give, but it will all be different because you will be giving differently.

The reality that we live in is mostly of our own creation.  Living in a world where we focus our judgement outward critically and self-righteously assessing everyone else might make us feel superior, but at the expense of our own happiness and joy.

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You may have a GPS in your vehicle that guides you to your destination, but each of us has another compass; an internal moral compass that if we listen to before acting or reacting impulsively will guide us to the best outcome for all.

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So when you next drive, refer to your internal compass about right and wrong and apply it to yourself first before judging others.  Try giving a bit and patiently watching for it to come around as it certainly will, if you just look for it.  It's just driving karma.

Written by Spencer McDonald, President , Thinking Driver

(Reprinted as previously published in Canadian Occupational Safety Magazine)

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About the Author - Spencer McDonald is a respected authority on driver behaviour, psychology and training, and is the founder of Thinking Driver.  To learn more about Mr. McDonald, please visit www.thinkingdriver.com.

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