REPORT 2: My Driving Personality Makeover Plan

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The act of driving is one which entails many responsibilities and duties. As a driver, one must be aware at all times of the conditions which encompasses his/her "driving bubble." The space that one allows for themselves during this task is what I am referring to when I speak of a "driving bubble." However, I think that the act of driving takes on a totally different perspective once one becomes hostile towards other drivers in the attempts to burst the "driving bubble."

If you look back to my Report 1 content area about an aggressive driving behavior, you will see that I feel that it is this type of behavior that is the root of "the evil driver" in us all. I don't feel that any wrong -doings in the task of driving would ever come to the surface level without the aggressive driving behavior boiling and venting off the steam. It is for this reason that I feel that in order to attempt any kind of change in my driving persona, I must change it at the heart of the problem: KILL THE AGGRESSOR!

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WHAT'S THE PLAN, AL?

After taking into consideration many of my bad driving habits (refer to Report 1 for a list), I decided to attempt to change what I felt was the cause of everything in the first place, bad attitude towards other drivers.

"For every action, there is a reaction." I thought about this statement for awhile as I started searching through my mind for a decent, yet realistic plan of action. After all one cannot be expected to do well in anything if it seems totally impossible or unrealistic. Maybe in time one becomes better at it, and the possibility of success draws nearer, yet it has to be implemented with the intent that it is possible. Therefore I didn't want to attempt any kind of overnight success story, rather a gradual process in the proper direction sounded reasonable. I think that taking time to implement a plan, to understand its meaning to the fullest extent, and to take each step as it comes makes not only the experience worthwhile, but also strengthens the foundation on which is to be built upon.

In my opinion, becoming a better driver (mentally aware of one's actions) is very beneficial to my total well-being as a person. Throughout my entire lifetime, I will encounter driving situations (both good and bad) and I know that they will affect me in either of the two mood states. I am not so worried about the good as I am with the bad however, and it is for this reason that I feel a change is in order. In my case the change would have to occur at the core of my driving problem, aggressiveness.

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DON'T EXPECT A MIRACLE

I am not sure what to expect as far as how well my plan will go or if I will even be able to attempt to change my aggressive driving behavior because I am not sure if I will be able to heighten my level of awareness while driving to a conscious level. In other words, I believe that I must force myself to become aware of the things that I do as a driver when I feel that I have been "provoked" by another and stop myself from attempting any kind of retaliation. Rather than get angry at another driver for something that is totally insignificant, I will have to acknowledge the reason rather than just judge the driver as trying to "piss me off" and feel the need to do something bad.

When I think about trying to implement this plan, I cannot help but wonder if my acknowledging the fact and bringing it out to the conscious level is such a good idea, or does it just create a new problem for me. I do know that if I don't try to acknowledge it, automatically I respond to anything which I consider a hostile act towards me usually in a hostile way.

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HOW HARD CAN IT BE?

Another aspect which I will have to overcome in order to achieve a driving persona makeover is that driving (as a task, day in and day-out) is not a competition. I am not driving for the benefit of getting to a destination faster than the person in the other lane. For some reason or another, there is something that is built into our minds at an early age to view things (such as a simple situation like driving) in a different kind of light and react to it in that manner. For example if a driver behind me were to cut out of the lane and come on the side, my first reaction to this would be that I am driving too slow for him so maybe I ought to speed up. Before you know it, it becomes a race of sorts, although neither one of us had that intention from the start.

I honestly feel that if I can come to terms with these thoughts (consciously) and realize that there is no alternate motive to peoples' driving behaviors other than what it is that they are doing (cutting lanes to take an off ramp exit) I think that I can start the process of reforming my driving persona. In addition, I think that if I don't try to interpret anything into the driving experience and just let it be, a driving experience, then I will also be ahead of myself in the process of changing. The underlying theory of this whole makeover plan is that if I can be a better person to others (not get angry at their stupid mistakes when driving) then I will come out a stronger (mentally) person as well.

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PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH

I put my plan into effect for one week just as a trial period. I chose a week because I felt that it allowed for enough time to see any kind of changes as well as allowed for improvement on my plan should things not meet up to my expectations.

The very first time I drove after setting my plan into action was the hardest. I think that I tried to think too much about things that I wasn't going to do should the situation arise, and though no situations occurred, the thought of it got me aggravated to a state that I drove aggressively. Once realizing this, I pulled off the road to reflect, writing brief descriptions of what I was feeling as well as the cause of my aggressive nature. Thinking back to this first experiment, I really feel that trying to hard to suppress the behavior is what caused it to be unleashed. STRIKE ONE!

On the next drive, I decided to try and sing along with any song that was being played on the radio. This experiment was both interesting and fun. Interesting in the sense that people look at you a lot when they hear you singing in your car at a traffic light or stop sign. For the most part there looks didn't imply anything, although on a few occasions I found that I would get offended that they were questioning my singing without knowing why I was doing it, in which case I would get mad at them and drive aggressively.

While on the same topic of music and driving, I found (unknowingly) through my self-observations that if the songs were of a mellow beat, love song or heart-break song, I would really drive casually. On the other hand, fast beat, loud, pounding lyrics would naturally bring out that beast. For the time being, the radio couldn't be part of the solution because it was part of the problem. STRIKE TWO!

The next changes I made which seems to have worked the best was to 1) not think about any bad situations happening and not worry about what others thought of me while I was driving, and 2) singing to myself with the radio off so that I could put myself in a relaxed state of mind (not sleepy, but relaxed). Check out what Berna Collado had to say about getting radio anxiety in her makeover plan under the sub-heading "My expectations."

An interesting phenomena which I discovered while driving which probably played an important role in my aggressive nature was due to "road dynamics."

One interesting experiment which I conducted was to see if peoples' responses as to the way I drived would evoke the aggressive driver within me to awaken. The way the experiment worked was that I allowed myself to drive in the second most furtherest lane to the right (on the freeway) keeping up with the pace of the other cars. When noticing an off-ramp about 1 mile ahead to the right, I would switch over to the right hand lane and reduce my speed to the speed limit. Now the only way for the experiment to work would be if I cut in front of a car in the right lane. My theory would be that the driver would assume that I was going to get off at the ramp and would just follow until I did so at which time he could speed up or something. As it turns out I drove past the off-ramp and continued to travel at the same rate of speed. The driver behind me followed for another 100-150 feet behind in the same lane and then decided that he had enough and cut over to pass ahead of me. I found myself with no feelings of aggression whatsoever, however I questioned my actions to see if I had provoked him in anyway. At least I realize now that I would not take my own actions (had someone else done this to me) in any form other than what it actually was, in other words, not get provoked or angry for reasons that I draw conclusions to myself.
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BE AWARE

In order to make any kind of progress through my plan I had to figure out a way which I could reflect on my driving behavior right after completing a trip to a destination. I would have used a recorder to record my observations, however, I drive a car that has a manual transmission and in order to hear anything clearly on my recorder would require me to hold it near my mouth as I drive. Therefore I felt that the best way to do it would be to have a notepad and pen on the passenger seat so I could write down notes as soon as possible.

I feel that this method of writing down notes soon after the fact helped me to attain the goals I had set forth for myself in my plan. In the event that I repeatedly did something wrong which didn't fit my makeover plan, I would highlight it on the previous page (each drive had its own page). Then I would write it down again on the page that I was on as a reminder that I did it again. Finally when I arrived home, I would look back at all of the data that I had collected and really concentrate on those things that were highlighted because I found that those were the things that had to be worked on.

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HAVE SOME FAITH, PLEASE?

I really feel that by following the methods of note-taking as well as highlighting was what made me become aware of the very deepest of bad habits. Although my attitude towards driving decreased somewhat to a more mellow tone, I found that I still had urges to speed at times in order to keep up with the traffic flow, or change lanes (2 or 3 at times) less than a hundred yards from my exit. Yet, it wasn't like I was an aggressor or anything on the roadways anymore because I had taken the time to look at my own observations of myself and try to correct them the next time over. If I couldn't correct the problems right away, at least I became more aware of "trouble spots" in my driving persona and it was placed in my conscious mind either before an incident or during. In my opinion this was probably the greatest obstacle to overcome because once I achieved the ability to sight out my wrong doings, I no longer did them as often (I'm only human, sorry).

I was very surprised that I could actually make a change in my driving persona. I realize now that all of the bad habits were a result of an over-aggressive driving persona. I took everything in the wrong sense when it came to driving because I thought that people were aware of their own driving and they were doing things purposely to get me "wired." However, I realize now that I myself was not aware of my own driving while doing so because driving had become "automatic" and so consciously I was not really aware of my wrong doings. So I put "two & two" together and came to the conclusion that these people were not actually out to "piss me off," but rather were not aware of their own bad judgment calls when it came to driving. This became a total relief and my attitude shifted completely. No longer the aggressor with the attitude "So you want to tangle with me, huh?" but rather a passive attitude like "Let it go." was now the approach I took towards other drivers.

As far as the music that I chose to sing to rather than listen to on the radio, I found that I got tired of singing after awhile. I was confident that the music on the radio would not influence my driving behavior now that I was a conscious driver. Therefore any music that came on the air, regardless of rhythm, style, tone or beat would not directly influence my aggression or driving nature.

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THE BOTTOM LINE FOR ME

After considering what I had to go through to achieve (for the most part) my driving makeover plan, I realize that there wasn't many changes after all. I suppose that I could have attempted something like this sooner and would be strolling further down the "yellow brick road" than at the present moment, however, I never took the time to realize that the changes would make a difference in how I viewed driving as a part of life. The aspect that amazes me the most is how a simple attitude makeover in driving can reshape your attitude about a lot of things in life that are not related to the experiences within a car.

Through my self-witnessing plan I have come to realize that the hypothesis which I suggested within Report 1 about the negative driving behavior influencing all other bad aspects of driving was proven true in this experiment. With a positive outlook on driving and the other drivers around me, I feel that all of the other bad habits (speeding, tailgating, lane-switching) is suppressed into non-existence. Eventually some of these things may find their ways out, however I have become a conscious enough driver to realize when they may try and escape and therefore avoid any kind of bad situation before it should arise. For instance, wake up a little earlier (time management) so I don't have to speed. Or another situation may be not worrying about my duties (because I have none in this respect) to the other drivers behind me if I allow for a distance of 4 car lengths with the car in front of me. It sounds like good judgment rather than an obligation to the others, don't you think?

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THE BOTTOM LINE FOR ALL

I feel that the experience was well worth the effort in changing my negative driving persona. I strongly feel that had I not changed it, sooner or later I may have ended up dead in a car wreck. I cannot see myself wasting my life and not experiencing life to the fullest extent all because I decided to take chances and drive a little reckless. It is sad that so many people die each year in traffic accidents, many of which are due to bad judgment calls (I consider driving drunk a bad judgment call). Just imagine the potential of their lives had they been given the chance to live up to it. Instead it is thrown away on the side of a road. Recently five young people lost their lives in a single car accident when the driver lost control of the car while drag racing over the Veteran's Day weekend.

Driving is a way of intertwining peoples' lives. It is a social gathering without the usual "chit-chat" although sign language and honking can always be found within the realm. However being that it is a practice which directly affects individuals' lives, I feel that if I should learn to better myself as a driver because it is my responsibility to others, then others should do the same. There is no sense to it that I be cautious and not take chances (drive defensive) if an accident is always waiting to happen because no one else wants to comply. Awareness is the key to this problem and if everyone took the time to open up the conscious to their driving experiences, I think we would not only have safer roads, freeways and highways, but a more conscious society about other things which threaten our existence, namely war and the destruction we put upon our own home...the planet.

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