How’s your autopilot?
I’ve often talked about driving habits with many people over the years. We all have habits; whether they’re good or bad. Every driver’s goal should be to concentrate completely on their driving whenever they’re behind the steering wheel. This creates positive driving habits. What they may be doing after they reach their destination should be in their thoughts after they reach their destination; not while driving. Not staying focused while driving is a common error that many people do each day they drive. Do you rely on your driving habits to get you home safely each day, or are you consciously thinking about your driving?
I recently discussed the difference between habits and rules with a group of new instructors I’m training for Young Drivers of Canada. They agreed that rules you’ll generally have to think about and habits come instinctively to you. Quite often, you’ll use your habit before you’ve realized it. Kind of like an autopilot; it does exactly what’s been programmed without human interaction. What have you programmed into your autopilot as a driver? More than you may realize I’m sure.
We discussed how checking your rear view mirror is a good habit to get into. I agreed with them, but what you notice in the mirror becomes a conscious thought. You need to use short term memory to remember what you saw and then act upon it. For example, if you saw another vehicle approaching you quickly from behind in the next lane, you need to remember that in case you want to do a lane change over the next few seconds. The habit is the mirror check, but the conscious thought of what you saw in it is what keeps you out of crashes.
I once had a student who constantly went 10 km/h over the speed limit every time she practiced with her dad. Each time she came back to me for lessons, she had a difficult time doing the speed limit. She had built the bad habit of speeding. She thought she could “turn it off” during the 15 minute road test; she was wrong. She failed her road test because of speeding. Her autopilot was programmed to do 10 km/h over the speed limit regardless of what the speed was.
Here’s my challenge to each of you; consciously think about the driving habits you have and decide which of them you’ll want to keep and which ones need to be re-programmed into your autopilot. Which habits will protect you, your vehicle and your passengers and which ones put you, your vehicle, your passengers and other road users at risk? If you’re going to use your autopilot, it might as well be a good one.