Driving safely is an attitude – not a platitude!
One of the more important aspects of driving safety is adopting the mindset that YOU WILL DRIVE SAFELY. As people often say, “It’s all in your mind!” or at least a good portion of “it” is in the way you approach driving. Embracing, improving and maintaining good behaviors and attitudes about driving are key components to keeping yourself and others safe. Believing that you can make a difference – CAN make a difference in enhancing safety on the road.
There may be some drivers that say they drive safely – only to get behind the wheel and engage in some of these unsafe behaviors:
- Using mobile phone while driving
- Changing lanes without signaling
- Accelerating through yellow lights
- Ignoring traffic signs
- Not wearing a seat belt
- Not yielding or giving right of way
- Driving under the influence
- Following too closely
- Ignoring weather conditions
In order to have a safe driving attitude you need to have control of your emotions and behavior, practice defensive driving and accept responsibility for your driving decisions, just to mention a few.
In your everyday driving, you can expect some emotional stress as other drivers may not respond to driving situations the way you might expect them to behave. The actions of others are beyond your control; how you respond to those situations IS within your control. Don’t let the actions of another driver trigger and impact your ability to make wise driving decisions. By staying calm when faced with stressful driving situations you reduce your chances of misjudging the driving conditions around you and making a serious mistake.
Another aspect of having a safe driving attitude is observing defensive driving practices. The National Safety Council defines defensive driving as: “Driving to save lives, time and money, in spite of the conditions around you and the actions of others.” Some of the ways to do this is to:
- Make sure your vehicle is maintained properly
- Wear your seat belt and make sure your passengers do the same
- Be aware – use your mirrors and always be aware of where cars are in relation to your vehicle and scan the road ahead for possible hazards
- Make sure you have a space cushion all around your vehicle whenever possible
- Respect other drivers – don’t tailgate other cars, allow cars to merge in front of you and allow for people to make mistakes
- Be willing to share the road with other drivers
- Be alert and aware of the actions of all other road users, including motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians
- Watch the road ahead, behind and on both sides of your vehicle
- Anticipate problems early and select the best course of action in case the worst happens
- Drive for the conditions, not the posted speed limits
- Never take driving for granted – road conditions change from moment to moment, so even if you drive down a street every day, always be alert for new hazards
- Give other drivers the benefit of the doubt when they make mistakes
- Adopt the attitude, “I can make a difference to road safety by being a responsible driver”
When you practice defensive driving, you reduce your driving risks because you’re anticipating potential driving situations and making safer and well-informed decisions.
As a person that has earned the right to operate a vehicle on the roadways, you must accept responsibility for all of your driving decisions. Other drivers cannot “make you” behave in one way or another; your reactions to their behavior are under your control. With a safe driving attitude, you have the discipline to put safe driving first regardless of what any other drivers do.
Having a safe driving attitude is something that is practiced – not something merely said. You must not only respect the law, but also understand the need for traffic regulations. You must observe the laws and regulations, realizing that there may be other drivers who do not know or always obey these laws.
Safety demands your complete and constant attention to changing driving situations. You can't control your vehicle if you're not in control of yourself. To help you maintain a safe driver attitude, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests that you:
- Get a good night’s sleep to help you stay alert physically and mentally
- Try to leave personal problems at home and seek help if you need it
- Allow a few extra moments to do a pre-trip inspection; you can be confident your vehicle is in good condition
- Be patient, even-tempered, and understanding. Show respect to other drivers if you wish to receive it.
- Bring a sense of humor. Be able to laugh at yourself.
- Learn to relax. Close your eyes; breathe evenly; think about the tension draining from your body. Repeat “I’m calm” and “I’m a good driver.”
- Be free from the effects of alcohol, illegal drugs, and medications
- Believe in your ability to drive well
If you don’t have the right attitude toward driving, it won’t matter how much knowledge or skill you have, you won’t be a consistently good driver. The aim is to stay calm, alert and tolerant in your driving situations. A good driver isn’t necessarily the person with split-second reflexes, the eyesight of a hawk and the talent of a race driver. A good driver is anyone who understands that all road users have a responsibility to each other to obey the law and the rules of the road. It is anyone who is unselfish, and who respects the rights of others. Having a safe driving attitude doesn’t take that much effort and has far-reaching benefits for everyone.
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