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Get Defensive!

Everyone, get ready. On a scale of 1 (being the worst) and 10 (being the best), where do you put your driving skills? Take a second or two and pick your number. I am guessing you rated yourself at about a 7 or 8. Am I right? Did anyone give themselves a 10? Or a 1? If you gave yourself a ‘1’, please stop driving and enroll in a driving course. If you gave yourself a ‘10’, I would like to ride with you!

"I'm a 10 at bumper cars."After taking Defensive Driving, I have been refreshed in the rules of being a defensive driver. This past year, I have also taken the Saskatchewan Safety Council’s Basic Rider Motorcycle Training and Skid Smart Collision Avoidance. I should be the best driver ever!

Except…sometimes, I make driver errors. Driving any vehicle is a huge task. Do you remember feeling nervously excited when you began driving? Maybe you were overly cautious and followed the rules exactly? Check my mirrors every 3 to 5 seconds, check my blind spot, keep my eyes far ahead… Are you doing those same things now? On your daily commute to work? Or dropping the kids off at school?

Or have you become….complacent?!

“Why, of course not, Merissa. I haven’t become complacent. I am just better at driving than I was back then. Years of practice!”- Theoretical blog reader.

Hmmmm….so that’s why you had to swerve back into your lane when doing a lane change and not seeing the other car? Or perhaps you had to slam the brakes a couple of times in the last few weeks? We all get complacent with driving as time goes on. It doesn’t mean you are a bad driver. As humans, we tend to get confident and complacent the more we do a task.

And driving becomes one of those tasks, especially if we take the same route every day. Reflect on your morning commute. Do you remember stopping at a stop sign or red light? Do you remember much from the drive? Was your mind thinking about your to-do list? Or perhaps the groceries you needed to buy? Or was your brain focussed on a so-called bad driver, who just cut you off and didn’t signal, and now you must show them you are better by speeding by them?

No judgment coming from me. We’ve all been there. The Defensive Driving Course was a great refresher into why you need to pay attention and make safe choices on the road. The most important category of driving conditions is the driver. Your mental state and attitude determines how you drive and react to conditions. Remember, you choose how you are going to behave behind the wheel.

Back to the original question, most people are a 7 or an 8 when rating themselves as good drivers. But if I was to ask, what happens to your driving behaviours when a ‘bad’ driver does something to you? More than likely it goes down to a 3 or a 4. Someone cuts you off, you get upset, and then you swerve angrily and speed past them.

Our instructors add in elements of our Behaviour Based Driving training in the Defensive Driving Courses. I learned it’s important to lower your expectations of other drivers on the road. If you drive with the expectation that everyone is a poor driver, you will anticipate poor choices others make and not react emotionally. Or, you can make up a story for the person who does something wrong. Well, that person just cut me off, but I am sure they are in a hurry to go to the hospital to visit their sick family member**.

**If you have reason to believe the other driver is driving very poorly and may be impaired, pull over and call 911.

Don't do this when driving. Make sure you are parked to feel this free.

The first step of defensive driving is to “Recognize the hazard”. This means not assuming everything is peachy all the time. Look for hazards! Make a game of it, like an ‘I spy’ or a scavenger hunt. This also keeps you from being complacent. Challenge yourself on your daily commute to find a few memorable things, like how many stops do I make or how many lights are on the route? Can I maintain a safe space around my car for the whole drive?

What safety tricks do you use to look for hazards while driving? Can you become a ‘10’ driver? What do you need to learn or do to get there?

-Merissa

P.S. it’s spring! Keep your eyes open for motorcyclists. And as always, hands off your mobile devices.

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