Thwarting distraction by driving with an ever-vigilant attitude is a driver’s highest task. Much of the time, one can perform the basic functions of vehicle operation while paying only marginal attention. But when sudden unexpected events arise, an attention level of indifferent complacency is totally inadequate.
What motivational factors encourage driving with vigilance? For me, an abnormally high interest in motor vehicles, a lust for operating machinery and a quest for survival all make the list. That last incentive is reason enough though, and is probably enhanced from my years of motorcycle riding — you can often take a hit in a traditional motor vehicle, but contact is regularly fatal due to one’s inherent vulnerability while riding a two-wheeler. Such vulnerability breeds defensive driving and watchfulness — traits which are equally important for less-but-still-vulnerable car and truck drivers.
Whatever your reasons might be for doing so, driving with an ever-vigilant approach gives you the best chance of success on the road. While accumulating over a million miles of driving, I have repeatedly been reminded of the best reason for maintaining a sharp watch: accident avoidance. Have you avoided an accident lately? You probably have.
Those “near misses” are actually better named as “near hits” and should serve as tangible reminders as to the importance of driving vigilance.
Even a non-injury “fender bender” is best when it doesn’t happen at all. The inconvenience of the vehicle repair process and the cost of increased insurance premiums should be distasteful enough realities to make circumventing them a concerted effort.
I suppose that every time you drive down a highway and don’t cross the centerline striking an oncoming vehicle, you are technically avoiding an accident. I would classify that situation, though, more as not causing an accident. By avoiding an accident, I mean something like stabbing the brakes to accommodate a scofflaw careening across your right front fender, missing it by a sliver, on a path from your immediate right, in front of you, across your lane, toward the left turn lane to your immediate left — my latest crash avoidance.
Missing accidents is a very satisfying thing. You avoid personal injury and damage to your vehicle — a worthy payback for being alert. Much of the time, my full-time attentiveness goes unrewarded because vehicles around me are driven well — but that bubble always bursts when a vehicle operated by an imprecision driver tries to cause a wreck. Accident avoidance is indeed a welcome and wonderful reward for maintaining vigilance.
State police often run emphasis patrols that are regularly scheduled to target driver failures such as signs of road rage, seat belt use, driving behavior around trucks, drunk driving and distraction. Police emphasis patrols should also motivate your driving alertness for at least two reasons. First, if you screw up, your chances of being cited for it are greater while extra troopers are out. Second, the extra emphasis is employed due to the high numbers of drivers suffering from rage, distraction, drunkenness or another failure — you need heightened alertness to accommodate them.
There are endless motivations and justifications for devoting all of your cognitive awareness to the task of driving while doing it. If you see no reason to do so, it’s hopeful that you will be shocked into alertness by having a near accident rather than an actual one.
Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.