Over the last year I’ve been trying to adopt the philosophy that emotions don’t belong on the roadway. This started when I first got back on a bike after my collision last January. I was hyper-aware of other drivers at first, and developed a sort of mantra to keep my own priorities straight: “not your problem, not your fault”. In other words: I am neither to blame for, nor am I in control of, other drivers’ actions.
Then a few months ago I made a snarky comment to a driver on a motorcycle–something about stop lines–and he turned around and caught up with me. Turned out he was a cop, and he calmly and effectively explained the situation. I apologized and we went our separate ways. One thing he said to me sticks out in my mind: “If that’s the way you think, you’re part of the problem and not part of the solution”.
I’ve been thinking about these two quotes, and lately I’ve been trying to remove all traces of emotional response from my driving. In the past I’ve been known to exhibit some road rage, or make mistakes due to frustration or elation. Any of these situations could easily lead to a collision, so it makes sense to avoid them. So how do I go about driving emotionlessly? I haven’t quite figured it out yet, but I’m starting with
- Don’t talk to other drivers. Don’t accuse them of making mistakes, or breaking the rules. They get defensive or even angry. I might be wrong. It takes my attention away from my own driving.
- Breathe better. Cycling itself helps promote a good rhythm, but even if I’m not on a bike I can focus on the cycle of breathing to keep calm.
- Pay full attention. Did my phone just buzz in my pocket? Oh wow, that girl is cute! Nice antique ragtop…no. Reduce my world to solid objects and lights. People don’t exist, there are only pedestrians. Other drivers don’t exist, there are only cars moving with intent. Roads become conveyor belts that move at different speeds, that frequently stop and start.
I will continue to develop a system that makes me a better, safer driver. Hopefully this message reaches a few more people who could use improvement as well. Just treat me as though I have the exact same rights and responsibilities as you do, no matter what vehicle you or I use. I’ll try to do the same.