Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Driving with a Healthy Attitude

Last year I attended a concert by a visiting musician.  I do that a lot....

Before the performance, she told us about her drive across the city, and how she was 'cut off' three or four times.

My brain went fuzzy.  I thought,"When was the last time I was cut off?"  I couldn't remember.  I drive a lot. More than most people.  But I hardly ever get 'cut off'.  So what's up with that? It took some thinking, and I started to pay attention to how I drive.  Over time, the answer came to me.

There are several reasons why I never get 'cut off' when I'm driving.

First, if someone is ahead of me - even in a different lane, I pay attention.  If they want to move in front of me, even if they don't signal, I generally detect it in advance - and give them room.  It is almost impossible for someone to 'cut me off' because of my driving attitude.  And afterwards, I usually find they don't even want to be in front of me - they want to change lanes so they can make a turn, disappearing from my path.

I remember driving in Toronto, with an older passenger who said "I never signal lane changes. Why should I signal my lane changes."  I pointed to the car in front of me, clearly (to me) planning a lane change. I backed off - and the driver zipped in front.  "There," I replied  "he didn't signal - so I'm driving for him as well".

Another reason I don't get cut off has to do with my high tolerance for mistakes by other drivers.  To be honest, sometimes I get frustrated, but generally, if a driver is lost, in a hurry, not paying attention, a new driver, an elderly person who maybe doesn't see very well, a visitor from out of province, or just plain idiotic and they do manage to 'surprise' me by pulling in front - I don't hold a grudge.  I might honk my horn, but generally not.  And in a few minutes - I forget about it.

So, if you cut me off today, I won't remember, or care, five minutes later. I certainly don't keep a list of people who cut me off, nor a count.

Next time you are cut off (or in a car where the driver was cut off) ask these simple questions:

1. Were you caught by surprise?  If you were caught by surprise, maybe you were not "cut off", maybe you were just not paying attention? Honk your horn at yourself. (sometimes I wish we had different horn sounds - so I could have one honk for DANGER, another for 'sorry....').

2. Did you see it coming, and speed up "try to not let the other driver in"? You were not "cut off", you were driving like an idiot.  Shame on you.  Honk your sorry... horn.

3. Were you speeding?  If you were speeding, are you saying: "I'm a better driver than most, so I can choose to drive faster and still be safe" - so, if you can drive faster and be safe, then  no one can cut you off - because you anticipate and share the road better than the other drivers.

I believe it is not possible to be cut off if you are speeding.  Once you pass the speed limit, you accept responsibility for what happens in front of you.

so... ask yourself, is it possible to be 'cut off' if you are driving alert, safely and sharing the road?  Maybe, but unlikely.

The secret to ensure we are never "cut off" when driving, is simple: change our attitude. Share the road.

Make this a personal health choice. Choose to be a healthy driver.
Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: