In order to understand Children's Self Witnessing Reports, it would be useful in understanding Self Witnessing and what it is all about. Self witnessing is a process in which people will record descriptions of their feelings, thoughts and actions for the purpose of analyzing and truly recognizing the internal views from which their behaviors generate.
By doing this, the recorder allows you to listen to such things as how angry you are, how you are feeling in certain situation, or what you are experiencing emotionally as you drive. This is referred to as the Affective domain and is the area where you can generate motivations. Closely related to the Affective domain is the Cognitive domain. It is here that your feelings and emotional experiences are processed into thoughts. For example yelling at someone out of anger out of the car window. The final domain and the most obvious is the Sensory Motor domain. Within this domain all the feelings and thoughts that were processed are now at a point where actions can take place. After witnessing these things on recorder you can go back to it, listen and analyze it to see where you would like to make changes. By self witnessing this way, you can be sure not to miss any vital information (feelings, thoughts and reactions) that you may have forgotten. Another aspect of self witnessing is that it allows you to go as far as you want in making changes, and it is within all three domains that behaviors can be adjusted. After getting the feel for self witnessing, you may decide to try and look at the more specific aspects of your driving that you would like to make changes on, which in my opinion, will probably carry on over to other areas of your life within your home, office, or relationships with other people in gneral. With regards to the use of the highways and roads, this personal expansion may be the key factor in preventing unnecessary deaths, injuries, and financial costs caused by the ignorance of road users. After all, it isn't until internal views are recognized that changes can begin to be made.
Many student self witnessing reports have been documented, and while trying this self witnessing exercise myself, I realized a few things about my own driving personality that shocked me. Prior to analyzing my self witnessing recordings, I always thought that I was a considerably safer driver. However, after listening to the tapes and hearing the kinds of reactions and thoughts I was having, I realized that I had a very solid streak of impatience to me that I hadn't realized before.
For example, on reviewing my very first exercise, I heard and recalled how often I checked the time - especially when coming to a complete stop. It wasn't however, from checking the time that I concluded my impatience, but from things that accompanied it. I found that the tone of my voice became very anxious and irritated. I expressed the amount of boredom I was experiencing within a single minute or two, and how I almost constantly tapped my fingers and looked at the ambient scenery to keep myself busy . Yet, at this point, I was still reluctant to see myself as impatient when I began analyzing this first exercise and looked to exercise number two for reassurance of my appropriate driving capabilities.
To my surprise, I found that the second exercise was even more accurate in portraying my impatience. Much of my thoughts and feelings were similar, but most of them grew in intensity during the latter part of the day. For instance, my second exercise took place after school and work had finished, and I expressed how tired and agitated I was before even starting the car by saying "I want to get the hell outta here and get me some food". I began taking notice and verbalizing other drivers faults while driving out of the parking structure, and started criticizing the way they drove to myself in the car - something I would never even consider doing to someone face to face. Everything from "you are following to close grandma", and "hello lady! You aren't even paying attention here!" to "You don't know how to use your blinkers?".
It wasn't until after listening to the tape that I realized, not only had I been driving in the car for less than two minutes, but I also began contradicting all my criticisms less than five minutes after they had taken place. As I listened to the tape further, I found myself verbalizing my thoughts and actions such as "I am going to cross this lane without putting on my indicator and it doesn't bother me one bit - Taco Bell is right up the road" and "Wow! I didn't realize I pulled up so close to this moped rider, there must be at the most five inches between us" while again expressing immediately after that realization my eagerness to get me something to eat. The most interesting part was yet to come. After listening to the tapes, I started asking myself "if your only purpose is to get from point A to point B without taking into consideration anything except yourself and your own personal acquirements, what is the use of driving?" I thought about this for a minute and then began thinking about the pro's and the con's of finding alternative ways of transportation. I finally got to a point within my mind where I said, "the convenience of driving is so much a part of my daily life that it would be too much to find another mean of transportation". So there it was, I came to my first conclusion - but what about my impatience? I continued to think at this point, and I could feel myself resisting any kind of advice, statistics on road rage, car crashes, or anything that would expand my awareness about the importance of other peoples safety.
I sincerely realized, after taking a break from documenting these exercises, that I was resisting my own willingness to work on my impatience and my awareness of other individuals. Why? Initially I felt invincible and felt that I am too good of a person to intentionally hurt anyone and I didn't need to look at traffic psychology . It was so much more convenient for me to disregard my wrong doings and project my faults on to other people than it was to take responsibility for them. So, I finally asked myself , would it be considered unintentional if my impatience and lack of awareness for other individuals resulted in a fatal or crippling crash - even though I am aware of it and not choosing to change it? Prior to these exercises I probably would have considered it to be, now I think it's absolute insanity.
Another exercise that I experimented with was assisting my six year old nephew on a self witnessing exercise as a passenger and I was amazed at the responses I received. I started off this procedure by brainstorming on the questions that I would ask him. At this time, I began to anticipate that his answers would be very passive and ignorant. However, to my surprise he expressed more things about driving than I would have ever expected. I inquired with him about his views on being a passenger and he responded that the most important thing to do was to wear a seat belt, and then started to tell me all the things he was noticing.
I had further asked him about things related to driving and slowly built up to what he thought about how fast I was going. He initially responded that as long as I was going as fast as the other cars it was okay. After I had told him that I was going faster than the speed limit he told me
"Well if you were speeding and you took a turn and went flying, I mean flying, then we would get into an accident and I would never forgive you".Overwhelmed at his answer, I asked him - after slowing down a bit, "what if an accident happened and it was because another person was speeding?" "Then I would be mad at the other guy" he answered. I began to get curious of how his attitude might be towards another person if they sped up along side of us, and they cut in front of us almost causing the car to swerve. I gave him that scenario and asked him if he would be angry. After he answered that he would have gotten angry I had asked him what he would do and he said "nothing". I asked him "nothing, you wouldn't even yell at the person or anything?", and he said "I would do nothing, what do you think I would do blame him, punch him, what else?" "Would you do that ?" I said, and he looked at me with very serious eyes and said "Uh uh, no no!".
Astounded at his answer, I kept wondering why he hadn't decided to do anything. In a situation like that I would have personally responded "I would be cussing the person out right at that point and probably talk about it for the rest of the drive". My honest expectation for his answer was the typical six year old possessed by a power ranger, at the least , something similar to "I would take out my power ranger sword and chop their car in eighteen million billion pieces". Unlike what I had expected, his views about driving were centered around the ideas of safety and cautious mannerisms so another inquisitive question I asked was where he had learned all this material. Proudly he answered "My dear sweet mommy!"
Overall, I found this exercise very interesting. I had remembered thinking to myself that it may be difficult to try and probe the mind of a young child for information they hadn't experienced. Then I realized that I had overlooked the fact that it was something that children do experience - most of them everyday. The real problem was the reality that we rarely ask for their input. As Rathus had pointed out in Psychology fifth edition (1993) "Many troubles occur because people tend to relate to each other as parents, children, or adults." I say that we tend to forget that everybody is human and every experience has something to offer if we are willing to accept it.
There are hundreds of ways that education on safe driving issues can be addressed to children, but I feel that without its reinforcement from family, school and government requirements, these issues may be disregarded as just another piece of material required to learn. I strongly believe that the input we gain from children about driving is important, and the input that we influence them with has equal importance. If, as adults we can influence appropriate driving behaviors, perhaps we will have less to repair in the future - and less to loose as well. I have always valued the ideas of children because they haven't had much of the influence that adults have, and as I have experienced, their minds are clearer in many aspects that adults have forgotten. It isn't simply with teaching them to be on their best behavior that will help decrease the horrifying statistics. I have learned that we have to put in our parts as adults and be open to sharing the ideas and behaviors with them. For you in the future who plan to do these witnessing reports with children, I would recommend that you give them your utmost attention as the first step - their ideas are so close to the reality and truth that it teaches you a lot about how things influence them, two - have the patience and the persistence to communicate with them at their level so they don't begin to feel intimidated by your questions, and finally, find ways to make this communication fun and safe - especially when you see your tape recorder hanging out the car window, kids seem to have a knack for getting excited when they know what they are doing is making you nervous.
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