Saturday, October 31, 2009

Three States of Mind for Drivers

As a former racecar driver, advanced driving instructor and more recently the Founder of, I constantly advocate that people take additional courses to learn how to improve their skills. Without a doubt they can be a lifesaver. I've often said that the greatest problem on our roads is a lack of skill and situational awareness, although our behaviour is a huge factor too. Even if everyone had the skills of professional racecar drivers, collisions would still occur if our state of mind were a problem. In my teachings, I make a point to teach drivers such essentials like situational awareness, forward thinking and the techniques of smooth, precise driving. But no matter how good you are as a skilled driver, our state of mind will always play a factor. A bad day at work or a fight with a significant other can change the way we drive.

Ever found yourself driving more aggressively after having a fight with someone at work? Be honest now...we all have. Have you ever given any thought as to how your state of mind actually affects your driving and how your driving affects other drivers around you? Probably not.

Last winter, I sat in on a Winter Driving Course hosted by Ian Law's Car Control School that focused on advanced driving techniques on snow and ice. Ian Law himself is a racecar driver whom I have shared the track with many times and he also writes for Although not imperative to the course, the instructors took the time to discuss the "Three States of Mind" exhibited on our roads, which is a concept that Ian discusses not only in his training course but also in some of his articles. Here I will try to summarize those concepts although with my own twist.

Child State
We see this one all the time. The "Child" drivers are the ones that speed along excessively, weaving in and out of traffic, seemingly without a care in the world or any consideration for other motorists. They are the ones seen cutting people off, tailgating and generally putting everyone (including themselves) at risk of a collision. They believe that the road is theirs and theirs alone and are frustrated that you are in their way. Or worse...think the road is their personal racetrack. If you will forgive the generalization, they are usually younger males who think they are invincible and that they have the skills to perform risky manoeuvres time and time again without any consideration for those around them. They have no sense of personal responsibility for the task of driving a vehicle and are generally want-to-be racers, driving supped up cars or super sport motorcycles. However the only proper place to race is on a racetrack, which is also a foreign concept to "child" like motorists.

Parent State
We see this one a lot too. The "Parents" are the ones that for whatever reason think that it's their job to teach other drivers a lesson of some sort. When someone cuts them off, they will tailgate or worse pass them and cut the "offending" driver off too in an attempt to teach them a lesson. They are also the ones seen "closing the door" on drivers who are attempting to merge into their lane but wait for the last moment to do so, refusing to let them in. "Oh no you don't! You waited too long...I'm not letting you in now". For whatever reason, they feel that they need to enforce their own ideas of the rules of the road. This type of behaviour can be just as dangerous (if not more so) as the "Child" state. When they see a driver behaving dangerously, they tend to add to an already dangerous situation in their attempt to teach others a lesson. This often escalates into road rage, which can in turn become very dangerous, especially when squaring off against "children" who retaliates with their own "I'll show you" attitude. The child becomes a parent too and now two "parents" are going head to head and things only get worse from there.

Adult State
The "Adults" are the ones that, I believe, we actually see the most, although recognize the least. They are the ones that always take a deep breath and think rationally and calmly. These are the drivers that, by their own actions, reduce the number of collisions on our roads because they don't allow dangerous situations to escalate and allow for a dangerous situation to become a safer one. They don't drive recklessly or erratically. When someone cuts them off, they ease off the throttle to open a safe distance and when someone needs to merge into their lane...they let them. These are the safe, courteous drivers on our roads and the ones who should be commended for remaining calm and attentive to their surroundings. They recognize dangerous drivers and give them space and thusly avoid collisions far more often. We see examples of all three each and every day on our roads but we should all try and be "adults". Skill and situational awareness are hugely important but so are our attitudes and behaviours.

So next time you go for a drive or a ride on your bike, ask yourself...what State of Mind are you in?
~~Editors Note~~
Special thanks to Shaun de Jager for this article posted originally on his site;

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