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The Art of Driving Safely

Updated on June 26, 2017

Driving as a skill

There are three levels of driving ability. The skill of driving is only the first level. Sadly, it is also the last level for far too many road users.

This involves learning how to pass a driving test and then developing the skill to stay out of trouble. Usually that last is learned through sad experience. When someone walks away from a wreck saying “I’ll never do that again.” Driving, for most people is a skill where the motto is; “Live and learn or you won’t live long.” Unfortunately too many people never get to that learning point and they never walk away from these accidents.

Driving as a skill is also the point at which most people stop. Going beyond the skill level never occurs to most drivers. The person who claims 20 years of driving experience, in truth, may only have 1 year’s experience that they have repeated 20 times. Developing the skill of driving may be good enough for the majority but it has its drawbacks. If the limit is simply skill, then driving can become a chore. Driving becomes work and a pain and every accident or near miss is someone else’s fault. Yes, it probably is the other guys fault if you are a skillful driver, but what about avoiding an accident because you are better than the other guy. There is a level where all accidents can be avoided and driving becomes something more than just skill.

Could the accident have been avoided?
Could the accident have been avoided?

Driving as a Science

Here is where we go further into driving. This involves taking some education and making a real effort. Taking a course on defensive driving for example, and then applying that knowledge in real life situations.

Defensive driving is often defined as;

“Driving to save lives, money and time, in spite of the actions of others or the conditions around you.”

Easy to say and I’m sure it sounds worthwhile. Too few drivers take the time to look for these courses in their neighborhoods. Even though mastering the science of driving can do all of the above not enough drivers will move forward.

Beyond this, to go further into the realm of driving as a science, there are courses on accident investigation. Usually you don’t have to be in the police force to take these courses. Once the concepts are grasped, and the mathematical formulas are learned, (There are a lot of them) it is possible to visit the scene of an accident and go back in time to re-create what happened. Useful information if you need to establish exactly who was at fault. Recreating accidents and their cause can be a fascinating exercise. It also will improve your skills as you learn the actions that caused others to have serious injuries.

About the word “Fault” This is a word that the law would use and the insurance companies are interested in. If you have developed to the point of driving as a science, then the question is no longer one of fault. The question is; could it have been avoided? This is the secondary question for insurance companies and is the reason why your premiums may go up after an accident even if it’s not your “Fault” Remember, defensive driving means “In spite of the actions of others.”

It's a beautiful pattern but don't get psychedelic. Driving is still a down to Earth exercise.
It's a beautiful pattern but don't get psychedelic. Driving is still a down to Earth exercise.

Driving as Art

This goes way beyond the first two. There are no courses given on this that I’m aware of. Once the science of driving is being learned, and it is an ongoing process, you are a safe and confident driver. But having gone as far as you can in skill and science, to go further requires a love of driving. It means that when you get behind the steering wheel you know that you are about to enjoy the trip and get a sense of fulfillment.

Have you noticed that when you drive things seem to be happening around you in a random, unpredictable fashion? It seems as if your life depends on split second decisions. Those “Actions of others” that leave us frustrated and angry because there was no way to prepare for what that other was going to do. Next time you see the morning traffic report on television, take a moment to notice the aerial shot. You’ll see that the traffic forms a pattern. If ever you get the chance to be in a helicopter and view it first hand the pattern becomes clearer. From up there it doesn’t look haphazard or unpredictable at all. It is what it is. A pattern, a river flowing with its own momentum and force.

Driving as an art form means recognizing that you are a part of that pattern. Instead of fighting traffic you become a part of it. Instead of trying to dominate the road with your own agenda, use the traffic flow to carry you safely and easily to your destination.

Driving as an art means that instead of driving quickly you drive efficiently. You have all the skill and the science but now, at journeys end, there is no more stress. No more that “Thank God it’s over” feeling. Instead there is the sense of satisfaction and fulfillment that is experienced by the artist who has completed a masterpiece.

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