Table 4

The AWM Approach in Driver Self-Modification


∑        First step:  Acknowledging that I have this particular negative habit. (A)

∑        Second step:  Witnessing myself performing this negative habit. (W)

∑        Third step:  Modifying this habit. (M)


For example, having picked the item "feeling regret at my unfriendly behaviors and impulses" for today's trip to work on, constitutes step 1, because selecting it is an act of acknowledgment.  Then, the driver has to witness this behavior during the trip.  In other words, drivers need to stay alert, maintaining focus on their emotions as they drive.  As soon as we detect the presence of hostile feelings, we need to follow it up with sentiments of regret or some form of disagreement with the hostile feeling.  This will serve to weaken the negative affective habit of entertaining hostile feelings towards other drivers on the road. The normal habit acquired in our socialization, would be to give in to the initial hostile impulse, to magnify it, to rehearse it several times.  All these habitual maladaptive procedures need to be interfered with or interrupted by means of the sentiments of regret that we introject into the event.  This constitutes the modification.  When the threestep process is practiced on repeated trips, the old affective habit sequence gradually weakens and is replaced by a new positive affective habit sequence.  The cyclical process is repeated item by item.  It is apparent from this why driver self-improvement needs to go on on a lifelong basis, and why social methods of motivation, like QDC groups, are needed to help drivers to persist in it and not give up.


Basic Principles in Driving Psychology  (this is part of Table 4)

These can be stated as follows:

1.      Driving is a complex of behaviors acting together as cultural norms.


2.      Driving norms exist in three domains: affective, cognitive, and sensorimotor.


3.      Driving norms are transmitted by parents, other adults, magazines, movies, TV.


4.      The primary affective driving norms for this generation are:

         valuing territoriality, dominance, and competition as a desirable driving style

         condoning intolerance of diversity (in needs and competencies of other drivers)

         supporting retribution ethics (or vigilante motives with desire to punish or amend)

         social acceptance of impulsivity and risk taking in driving

         condoning aggressiveness, disrespect, and the expression of hostility

These affective norms are negative and anti-social. Socio-cultural methods must be used to reduce the attractiveness of these aggressive norms and to increase the attractiveness of positive and cooperative driver roles.


5.      The primary cognitive driving norms are:

          inaccurate risk assessment

         biased and self-serving explanations of driving incidents

          lack of emotional intelligence as a driver

          low or underdeveloped level of moral involvement (dissociation and egotism)

These cognitive norms are inaccurate and inadequate. Self-training and self-improvement techniques must be taught so that drivers can better manage risk and regulate their own emotional behavior.


6.      The primary sensorimotor driving norms are:

         automatized habits (un-self-conscious or unaware of oneís style and risk)

         errors of perception (e.g., distance, speed, initiating wrong action)

         lapses (in oneís attention or performance due to fatigue, sleepiness, distraction, drugs, boredom, inadequate training or preparation)

These sensorimotor norms are inadequate and immature. Lifelong driver self-improvement exercises are necessary to reach more competent habits of driving.


7.      Driving norms and behavior can be changed by socio-cultural management techniques that create in the driver a desire for change, by weakening negative norms and strengthening positive norms of driving.  Since driving is a habit in three domains of behavior, driving self-improvement is possible and effective in improving this habit. Specific elements in each domain must be addressed in recognition of the fact that driving consists of thousands of individual habits or sub-skills, each of which can be identified, measured, and improved, on a long term basis.


8.      Drivers maintain strong resistance to externally imposed restrictions and regulations so that these methods alone are not sufficient to create real changes in driver behavior. Socio-cultural methods of influence need to be used, such as QDCs (Quality Driving Circles).  Driving Psychology uses socio-cultural methods that act as change agents. Group dynamic forces are powerful influencing agents that can overcome driversí resistance to change. This is achieved by group activities that focus on this resistance in an explicit way, and afterwards, are put into conscious practice through follow up self-witnessing activities behind the wheel. These informal groups are called QDCs (Quality Driving Circles) and their function is to exert a long term or permanent socio-moral influence on the driving quality of its members. This positive influence is exerted by members on each other when they adhere to a Standard QDC Curriculum, as approved by designated safety officials or agencies on a regional or national basis. The QDC Curriculum is created through the principles of driving psychology.


9.      Driving is a semi-conscious activity since much of it depends on automatized habits acquired through culture and experience over several years. Thus, the driverís self-assessment is not objective or accurate, until trained in objective self-assessment procedures.


10.  Driving inherently involves taking risks, making errors, and losing emotional self-control. Thus, drivers need to be trained in risk taking, error recovery, and emotional control under emergency or provocation conditions.


11.  Obtaining a driverís license cannot be considered the end of driver training. Continued driver training in the form of guided lifelong self-improvement activities is essential for acquiring new skills. These new skills are needed as driving gets more complex with technology such as managing car audio devices , reading maps on screens , using computers , note taking , talking on phone or radio , keeping to a schedule , eating, etc.  The Standard QDC Curriculum (Quality Driving Circles) needs to be kept up-dated continuously and the latest additions are to be made available to all functioning QDCs in a region. These up-dates are to focus on new developments that technology brings to vehicles and roads, all of which require the acquisition of new skills by drivers.