Leading Road Safety Educator Calls For Global Road Citizens During The Pandemic
We all know that stress can affect our decision-making process. Heightened emotions such as stress, anger or upset are a form of cognitive distraction which can significantly impede drivers' ability to spot and respond to hazards.
Any number of stressors can affect our driving on a normal day, but in this unprecedented time of Pandemic, our stress levels are through the roof. It’s a frightening time; our country has effectively been shut down, we are cut off and worried about our loved ones, our jobs, our futures, and what still may be to come. Still, the large majority of us are embracing our role as global citizens, taking actions to protect others. As we our first weekend at level 3, with more people on the roads, leading learning organization and charity, Road Safety Education Limited (RSE) pleas for the community to take these actions on the road as well as in the home. That means taking action to increase focus and reduce risk in those times where you absolutely have to be on the road.
Switching off the mind-clutter can be particularly difficult when we’re behind the wheel making that rare and quick trip for essential supplies, getting to and from work or helping someone more vulnerable. In these moments, we may find more anxiety and stress creeping into our driving.
We may also experience a lot less traffic than we’re used to. Traffic often provides drivers with cues to moderate speed and take notice of traffic signals. Without the traffic in place, we may find ourselves switching to auto pilot and letting the clutter in our minds take over. worse still, some drivers see the open road as an invitation to speed.
In fact, in Australia, the UK and the USA, we have seen an alarming increase in the amount of drivers caught travelling at excessively high speeds. One motorist in NSW was caught travelling 192km/h in an 80km/h zone. We are not immune to this in NZ, as reported in the NZ herald last weekend, Tauranga police have caught 15 people driving more than 140km/h on local highways within the last two weeks. This includes the driver of a Mustang caught driving 176km/h on Route K.
“If we are to stay safe on our roads, it’s essential that we find a way to drive mindfully”, says RSE’s NZ manager, Maria Lovelock. “We can use this as a great teaching moment for children of any age, but most important for our up and coming young drivers – showing them how to increase their focus on the roads and remove cognitive distractions”.
RSE is the provider of the RYDA road safety education program for high school students. A key theme in the program is helping students identify parts of their own personality that put them at risk on the road. The program works with students to devise strategies and techniques to manage mind-state so they can focus on the task of driving. Ms Lovelock says, “these are strategies that we all need to employ while we’re driving, but never more, than right now so we have decided to share some of these with the whole community”. Check out their blog for some great strategies on how to manage your mind state as you get back on the roads this weekend
You will learn:
- What is commentary driving and how it keeps your focussed on the road.
- The three areas of mindful driving
- Grounding exercises that can help you if you feel anxious when getting in the car.
She continued, “In this time of social distancing and isolation, there is an opportunity in those moments when we do need to drive, to form new habit which see us driving more socially, more aware of those around us, and more aware of how our mood affects everything … perhaps this could be our silver lining.”