Make Driving a Game

Changing Driver Behavior
Jun 07/2016 Published by:

Have you ever had someone cut you off in traffic? Or, has another driver ever jammed on the brakes in front of you for no reason whatsoever? Even though there are almost 20 million vehicle crashes each year, it amazes me there aren’t even more accidents than that. It’s crazy out there and it can really get frustrating.

A lot goes into being a safe driver. Drivers must know how to safely operate the vehicle. They need to be in good health with reasonably good vision. They can’t be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Drivers must also know the traffic laws. But even if you can check the box on each of the above, it can all go down the toilet if you let emotions get the best of you.

That’s a common theme I’ve found in good drivers. No matter what happens, they don’t let emotions take over and change their decision-making behind the wheel. We’ve all seen a “good driver” suddenly turn terrible because something didn’t go right.

So if attitude is so important, what can you do to ensure emotions don’t suddenly take over? One key is not to take other driver’s actions personally. The driver who just cut you off wasn’t really trying to do something to you. He doesn’t even know you. He probably just made a mistake. Or maybe he’s just a lousy driver. Don’t worry, he will pay a price through more tickets and higher insurance costs.

One of the best ways to keep emotions in check is to treat traffic as a game. Here are some examples:

Predict the future. Try to forecast what other drivers are going to do before they do it. They are constantly sending us clues. Look for these clues and see if you can predict the next move. That driver who unexpectedly jammed on the brakes for a left turn? He sent a clue two blocks earlier when he changed from the right to the left lane even though the lane he had been in was wide open. (Tip: drivers change lanes for a reason – it’s either to get ahead or to make a turn).

And that guy who just swerved across your path from the adjacent lane? He had been doing the same thing for miles behind you, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that he continued to do it when he got to you. This is where the mirrors can be so useful. If you use them often enough, you can apply what happened behind you to what will likely next happen in front of you. (Tip: Just as in sports, it’s important to know the tendencies of your competitors. “Competitors” as it relates to driving are the other drivers around you.)

Or you can do a cost-benefit analysis. Compare what the pay-off was for an aggressive driver vs. yours. Here’s an example: You’re first at the red light. Stopped behind you is another driver who is so close you can read the brand name of the cell phone jammed against his ear. The light changes and you begin to move ahead. At the first moment a crack appears, the trailing driver jerks his vehicle out into the next lane and charges by you. Next he cuts back across a couple lanes because it’s now opened up on the other side. He’s winning! But wait, someone in his lane ahead has jammed on the brakes for a left turn. Frantically, our friend looks for an opening to swerve into another lane, but he’s too late and it’s not there. Stuck behind the left turner, he’s fuming, as you calmly roll by in the next lane. We won!

O.K., so we don’t always win. But there are a lot more victories out there than you realize. You just need to look for them. And, once you recognize this, you begin to realize it’s a lot better to just let those other drivers go. You’ll be safer for it and it won’t cost you any time. Meanwhile, they’re taking a lot more risk, burning fuel and will probably just be waiting for us at the next red light anyway.

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