3-Step Driver Self-Improvement Program
Reference: Road Rage and Aggressive Driving By Leon James & Dr. Diane Nahl
This is the first step towards driver self-improvement. One needs to recognize that a bad driving habit exists in order to correct that problem.
Example: I get angry when I’m behind someone who drives a lot slower than the speed limit. Before I can correct this problem I must acknowledge that getting angry in this situation is the problem.
Culturally: Many people in our society think they’re above average. Our culture stresses nothing but the best in everything we do. Therefore acknowledging that one has faults shows society and ourselves that they have weaknesses. This prevents many people from correcting their bad habits.
Psychologically: One needs to look at driving habits objectively rather than subjectively. Self-serving bias blocks one from acknowledging their bad driving habit(s).
Driver’s Education: It’s extremely hard to just tell oneself, “I’m going to change.” Systematic self witnessing needs to be implemented with a high degree of specificity. One’s intentions, beliefs, thoughts, and physiology need to be monitored and understood, in order for an individual to acknowledge their problems. The concept of emotional intelligence needs to be taught to drivers through quality driving circles.
This is the second step towards driver self-improvement. This is the act of verbalizing thoughts and feelings to better understand your reaction to a given situation.
-Blood Alcohol Level
-Running through red
-Crossing a double line
-Failure to yield
-Insulting or threatening gestures
Example: While driving I realize the person in front of me is driving 5mph under the speed limit. I express to myself, “Why are you driving so slow, you jerk? Press on the gas peddle jackass! I don’t have all day!”
Culturally: Our culture teaches us to express our feelings verbally. Don’t let anyone take advantage of you. If you feel someone wronged you in anyway then expresses yourself.
Psychologically: Self-witnessing reveals your driving personality, the “automatic self.” This automatic self is a collection of habits you have acquired over the years of driving.
Driver’s Education: There are multiple options to witnessing your driving habits.
-Using a counting device such as beads or coins in a cup for each time you witness.
-Having a passenger ride with you
-Dictating notes to a passenger
-Writing notes in a driving diary after arriving at your driving destination
The third and final step is to modify one’s behavior from a negative to a positive outlook. Once you have witnessed negative behavior, then it is time to modify the subjective and self-serving thoughts to become objective.
Example: Say someone cuts you off and you start yelling and swearing. At this point you have acknowledged and witnessed your problem. The words, “jackass” or “asshole” might slip from your mouth as you get cut off but this is ok. Soon we recognize old habits are hard to break. What's more important is you recognize that your behavior needs to be modified and you stop yourself from getting carried away.
Culturally: Modifying one’s behavior has got to be our culture’s most challenging aspect. Many children are raised to stand up for what they believe; and if they believe that ranting and raving is an acceptable behavior than why should it be modified? This attitude goes beyond driving; it’s a lifestyle, personality, and a philosophy that needs to be modified.
Psychologically: Emotional intelligence is a huge factor in modifying one’s behavior. Modifying bad driving habits means you’re becoming a supportive driver. Supportive driving means a higher level of emotional driving, which then leads to a more positive, supportive attitude in other social situations.
Driver’s Education: Modifying driving habits requires systematically mapping your emotions, thoughts, and deeds behind the wheel (143). Modifying behavior doesn’t happen over night, it takes practice and a lifelong commitment to improve one’s driving style. One needs to constantly observe their behavior to lower negativity and aggressive driving and raise positivity and supportive driving.
4. Resistance to Change
Change is always hard but it's even harder when you’re trying to change a habit. This is a misunderstood/unacceptable belief or reason that prevents a person from accepting and practicing an alternative option.
Example: You are a person who likes to close gaps and not let other cars in front of you. No matter how many times your friends explain to you that leaving a few car lengths in front of you will help ease traffic congestion; you continue to think that not letting others in will decrease the time it takes for you to get home.
Culturally: Change in our culture is sometimes hard to accept. The American way of thinking is to be an individual and stand up for what you believe. Even some aspects in our culture resist change such as the fact that we still haven't had a female or African-American President.
Psychologically: When we drive we have no choice but to be affected by the actions of others. However we do have a choice in the way we react to the actions of others. Normally we fall back on anger because it's so easy to get angry at bad drivers. We should be spportive drivers by empathizing the situation. Let's face it, most of us like the easy way out and anger is far easier to accept than empathetic reasoning.
Driver's Education: One way to stop your resistance to change is to use empathy. Put yourself in the other driver's shoes. It's always helpful to switch perspectives when trying to understand a situation.
5. Driver's Diary
Creating a driver's diary helps a driver acknowledge, witness, and modify their bad habits. To give you a better idea of what a driver's diary looks like, I did my own personal one.
Example: Everyday I got to work on the weekdays it's traffic hours. In order for me to get to work, I have to take the freeway. This requires me to merge into traffic.
Monday: This is a good day for me to be driving to work because I just had driving psychology. I had to merge into traffic which wasn't too bad, because I used my blinker and waited for someone to let me in. I remembered to be a supportive driver.
Wednesday: I left my house a little late today. As got to the freeway to merge, I was in a rush and trying to be pushy. I put my blinker on to signal a lane change, but some Jackass was closing the gap and didn't let me in. I was looking at him as he passed me and I was saying to myself, “this guys a dumbass."
Thursday: It's almost the end of the week and at this point I don't remember what driving psychology is, as I drive to work. I got to the freeway once again and it was time to merge but I forgot to use my blinker. In order for me to merge, I sped up to get in front of the car that was in the left lane. Once I changed lanes I had to slow down immediately, so I wouldn't hit the car in front of me. I think this irritated the driver behind me. As I soon realized the driver was tailgating me; to show me he was upset.
Friday: I really tried to remember to be a supportive driver today. I signaled to enter the right lane and I waited till someone opened a gap. Once I got in I gave the lady behind me a shaka to be supportive.
Culturally: People in our culture like to organize daily schedules; in order to remember what they need to do for that day. It wouldn't be much harder to take daily notes on our driving styles, to recognize habits we need to improve.
Psychologically: Keeping track of bad habits and trying to improve them will raise our level of emotional intelligence. Nobody wants to be emotionally ignorant but it's so easy to be.
Driver's Education: A driver's diary is a type of driver's education. All you have to do is start logging entries into a diary after you drive around. This will allow you to acknowledge, witness, and modify your bad driving behaviors.