Drive like you've never driven before
Do you remember the first time you sat behind the wheel of a car? Were you nervous about the lesson ahead, anxious to get everything right and fully focused on every little thing that crossed your path? Did you notice every movement your foot made on the accelerator, every action from the cars around you?
Jump forward to the last time you got behind the wheel.
Before you started the engine, did you give any thought to your ability to perform the necessary vehicle manoeuvres for your upcoming trip? Were you 100% focused on the task as you drove along?
Thankfully, this heightened stress fades as we become more skilled at driving and practiced at hazards perception and response. But when does that skill and practice become complacency?
Can being good at something be a bad thing?
As with any task, when we become good at it, complacency can set in. This can affect our concentration and, in the case of driving, dramatically increase our risk of being hurt or injuring others.
If you’ve had a few close calls on the road, but thankfully not experienced a serious incident, this can lead to overconfidence and an increase in the risks we take. And with each risk, the potential for a close call becoming a serious incident increases.
Statistically, who are the safest drivers?
Perhaps surprisingly, learner drivers are the safest drivers on our roads. Why? They haven’t picked up bad habits yet and their supervisors make a conscious effort to leave theirs behind.
Can you break bad driving habits?
The good news is, it’s never too late to make a fresh start with your driving. Bad habits are more easily broken when they’re replaced with something more constructive.
So, what’s a good replacement for complacency? How about mindfulness!
The 4 top characteristics of a mindful driver
The mindful driver:
- is fully in the moment with a calm, focused state of mind. They drive with an attitude of cooperation and consideration
- is ready for anything, constantly scanning their environment and anticipating 12 seconds ahead
- isn’t distracted by things in or outside the car
- eliminates high-risk driving behaviours like speeding and tailgating, but also has a realistic assessment of their own driving ability and risk-taking.
How do we replace complacency with mindfulness?
- Check in with yourself every time you get in the car – how are you feeling and are you focused? Remind yourself of your intention to drive mindfully. Spend a moment taking a few deep breaths.
- Switch off phones and music and experience the silence, allowing your awareness to fill with other perceptions.
- Become aware of the things you feel – hands on the steering wheel, foot on the pedal.
- Notice and acknowledge the things you’re looking at and hearing as you drive - try commentary driving as a technique to manage mood distraction.
By training yourself to remain in the present moment, you learn to avoid unconscious thinking and complacency and you actively lower risk.
You can make a fresh start to your driving … and you can start today.
For more tips on road safety and information to help you and your family become safer on our roads or to find your nearest RYDA venue, visit rse.org.au.