It’s Not Always the Other Driver
Most drivers are quick, even eager to expose the deficiencies of other motorists, to deplore their ineptitude and rage at their risky maneuvers. But in truth, few are innocent:All of us do stupid things from time to time, take foolish risks that put ourselves and others in jeopardy. I’m no exception. On any given trip I’m liable to make some boneheaded moves that reflect either poor judgment or lack of proper concentration. I will pull out of curbside parking spaces and fail to check whether other vehicles are heading my way or shift lanes on a highway (without signaling) before determining whether clearance is sufficient. I will, on occasion, lose patience and pull out onto a busy street just ahead of an oncoming car, give only the slightest hint of braking at a stop sign, pass through yellow lights regularly, on a highway drift across lane makers and range too close to cars traveling in front of me. I won’t speed very often (unless you include cruising at 30 in a 20mph zone), but I do dawdle at times after a signal light turns green, drift along purposelessly in the right lane, drive while distressingly drowsy, and, partially as a consequence, have been known to miss an exit. Have I omitted other blunderings? Probably so, but you get the idea. Though generally considered a competent driver, in reality my record is at best mixed.
What’s my problem? Much the same as other drivers. Who among us doesn’t lose patience and take unnecessary chances on occasion. Don’t we men become overly aggressive when challenged or after concluding we’ve been taken advantage of? Who doesn’t develop sloppy habits or experience periods of distraction or inattention? And don’t we all periodically have “bad days?”
As important as it is to admit to driving deficiencies, what if anything have I done about them? Confession and contrition after all are best followed by correction. I have, in all fairness made an effort, taken some remedial action. More than once I’ve enrolled in a safe-driving course, the immediate reward being a reduction in car insurance premiums. Still, what’s wrong with getting back to basics, being reminded, for example, how much time elapses before you can stop a vehicle traveling at various speeds or about the right-of-way rules at stop signs. While likely to defend myself against passengers critical of my driving, it’s senseless simply to ignore them. But if a dressing-down is warranted I will, at least when alone in the car, proceed with the chastisement directing some strong words of disapproval at myself. “What a dumb move,” “How could you have done this?” or “Shape up, you jerk.” Such verbalization I find useful and sobering. Similarly when I sense inattention settling in, or note sub-par reaction times, I visualize getting hit, imagine the sickening sound of metal crunching metal. A wake-up call, to be sure. Reflexes pick up, attentiveness promptly returns.
So remember what I told you earlier – mostly it’s the other person’s fault. But however tempting it is to automatically blame the other guy, I may resist and will take the rap, at least some of the time.