Hands up if you saw someone driving this weekend texting on their phone, if you saw someone speed, run a red light, cut in front of you, not allow someone to zip/merge, or tailgate you?
When was the last time you drove somewhere and realised you did not remember how you got there. When did you last say to yourself, I did not see them, or find yourself swerving as you changed the radio station?
All of these examples occur when we and other road users take driving for granted and forget to drive mindfully.
Who better to talk about mindful driving than a Highway Patrol Officer. It is my pleasure to introduce Leading Senior Constable Glenn Dunn, from the Casey and Cardinia Highway Patrol Unit. LSC Dunn, is passionate about reducing the road toll. Since February 2016 he has presented the Emergency services speaker component for Road Trauma Support Services seminars being conducted at Narre Warren. Recently he shared with me his A, B, C and D of driving. Over to you LSC Dunn.
I have intercepted many road users that engage in intentional high risk driving behaviours such as driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, doing burnouts, travelling at excessive speeds and using their mobile phone whilst driving. All of these people have the view that it is OK to do these things and they see it as an opportunity to see what they can get away with. Police are the bad guys, speed cameras are revenue raisers, drinking and driving and texting whilst driving are OK as long as you are not caught. There is something horribly wrong with this mindset.
It all comes back to the basic laws of physics. If you are speeding and you lose control of the car and slam into a tree, a pole or a car coming the other way then there is going to be an impact and an exchange of forces - a “Sudden Stop!” If you are in a vehicle that has a sudden stop and you are not wearing your seatbelt you become a projectile and continue to travel at the speed that the car was travelling before the stop! Our bodies have not been designed to withstand such external forces! We are not Graham.
Graham is a human sculpture designed to look like how the human body would need to be created to survive a serious crash. You can learn more about him herehttp://www.tac.vic.gov.au/about-the-tac/media-room/news-and-events/current-media-releases/introducing-graham. Now I don't know about you, but I don't look like Graham. Therefore I need to drive as safely as I can, and that means driving mindfully.
I have attended serious collisions caused by the fatal five activities (as identified by Monash University Accident Research Centre)
These are all avoidable activities. For most people driving is something that they do in between other activities in their life and as such they are rushing from one place to another and as a result not enough attention is paid to the actual act of driving.
My approach to driving can best be summed up by the following A,B, C, and D.
(A) – Drive with Awareness – pay attention!
(B) - don’t forget to Breath
(C) - Concentrate on your driving, don’t allow yourself to be distracted; and last but not least,
(D) - every road user has a “Duty of Care” to every other road user.
A – Drive with awareness
Be aware of:
The external environment – weather, traffic conditions, speed limits, is your car too hot, too noisy. If the kids are fighting pull over. Use your mirrors.
Your internal environment – Are you tired or upset? Pull over take a nap. Go for a walk. Calm yourself before taking off.
A lighter example of unaware driving.
I am in an unmarked police car, being tailgated for a few minutes. We came to where the road went from one lane to two lanes. This person felt I wasn't moving to the left lane quickly enough so he drove closer to the rear of the unmarked car and honked his horn ferociously. I moved over to the left and allowed him to pass. When he got up level with me he looked across at me and saw that I was in police uniform. I could see the colour leave his face as he turned a lighter shade of pale. We went through the roundabout and I pulled him over and gave him a ticket for tailgating.
B – Breathe
When you hop in the car, before you start you journey, take that moment to breath and remind yourself that the intention of driving is to get to where you want to go, safely. When you switch on the ignition of your car switch on your awareness as well.
During your journey you will encounter many potential obstacles. We just need to view these differently. For example - Treat a Red light as a “Relax light”. Take the opportunity to take a couple of deep breaths. Do a quick body scan - be aware of any tension in your hands and neck and stretch. Check in with your internal environment and let any stress go. Remind yourself you will get there. On most occasions driving is still quicker than walking or riding a bike.
C – Concentrate
Prepare before you go. Make sure you know where you are going. Don’t text, put on makeup, read, eat your breakfast, play with the radio, answer your phone, read the Melways, punch in an address into the GPS. Yes, these are all examples of activities people are doing before they cause an accident. Just drive. If you are texting when you drive or you answer a phone call and you hurt someone badly, even if they don't die, you can go to jail for about 5-10 years. You will also live with the trauma caused by taking that call.
D – You have a Duty of Care. Drive in a manner so that you do your best to keep other road users, your passengers, and yourself safe. Check your child is wearing their seatbelt. Send the text before you drive out of the school car park, not whilst driving out. Treat the speed limit as a maximum. Leave room between your car and the car in front, it’s not OK to tailgate someone because you think they’re going to slow.
If we can encourage more motorists to apply this approach to driving, help motorists take responsibility for their actions and get them to take their Duty of Care seriously I believe that we can go a long way towards reducing the amount of senseless road trauma that is currently occurring on our roads.
If you or anyone you know has been affected by road trauma one place you can seek help is through Road Trauma Support Services, Victoria. https://www.rtssv.org.au.
* My aim is for these posts is meant to useful, interesting and/or inspiring. They are not designed to be used for therapy.. If you are experiencing stress please contact your GP or mental health professional.
Kim Ross is a Psychologist and Founder of Positive Young Minds and Essential Self-Care for Psychologists.