We recently came across an opinion piece that we’d classify as typical ‘pub talk’, that normally gets debated after a few beers. The premise: humans in motor vehicles can be classified into two personalities. Type A are apparently bad drivers, idiotic and reckless, who put fellow humans and themselves in grave danger. Type B are good drivers, reasonable and considered, who put themselves and others’ safety first.
According to this ‘thinking’, it is perfectly okay to yell an outburst of profanity at Type A drivers. That this should help transform them from type A maniacs to type B respectful drivers. Or does it just reveal some deep-seated anger issues and lack of compassion?
You don’t need to be a psychologist to detect some flawed thinking here. Research has shown that drivers who put themselves in danger have a serious lack of self-compassion and self-worth and will rate their life satisfaction levels at the bottom of the scale. We also know that a lack of self-compassion will disable the capacity of feeling for others, simply because their attention is directed inwards to their own suffering, with little left-over capacity to feel for anyone else. So rather than simply being idiots, it’s safe to assume many people driving dangerously are actually battling themselves.
The author of the opinion piece recommended that all these maniac drivers just need to stop their silly behaviour and ‘be kind’. This is easier said than done however. Imagine our heavy-footed driver has just lost his job (a common occurrence for various Covid-19 related reasons). This has turned his life upside down, leaving him running at the highest level of the fight or flight response, which then translates into speeding. Fight/flight is the average person’s response to something difficult – unless they have learned some strategies to increase their level of resilience and some alternate mindful responses, one of these options will take over.
Now, as an alternative, imagine a world where we see a driver behaving dangerously, and instead of becoming furious and writing opinion pieces, we could consciously choose a more helpful response. We could, for example, try replacing our anger with curiosity. “Hmmm, that driver seems very stressed and reckless, wonder if everything is ok?” Curiosity might just lead to compassion and some understanding for ‘Type A’ kind of dangerous driving, or towards helping a person clearly displaying unhealthy coping strategies.
Reckless driving manoeuvres could then be seen as symptoms of underlying mental health issues needing attention. And don’t worry we’re not suggesting you just watch on and do nothing about driving that could cause a crash. You could call *555 in New Zealand, so the authorities can start that driver on the right path. Or if it’s a friend/family member/colleague you could offer to help them with their mindfulness, resiliency and self-awareness.
Find out more about the courses Fleetcoach offers in these areas at https://www.fleetcoach.com/driver-training#content