It was a glorious September morning. I had just had a great run, finished my physio homework pain-free and was pretty much on a high as I left the gym to drive to work in Youghal. As I prepared to turn right at the gate, a silver Audi approaching from my left, turned right into the gateway cutting across me. I slammed on the brakes narrowly preventing a nasty collision.
And that was the end of my good mood. Well, for a while anyway. I banged on the horn thinking Why did he do that to me? (He didn’t I know, it wasn’t personal – but doesn’t it feel personal in the moment?) He shouldn’t be on the road! How did he get his licence? Was that yer man from the gym? He better apologise to me. Yada yada yada… Followed by OMG I could’ve been killed. We both could’ve been killed. What’s the point in reporting this it’s never got me anywhere in the past (partly true sadly…). Where are all the guards? Is my dash cam working?
All those thoughts in maybe 0.5 seconds…
Every day on the road I pass drivers on their phones, texting, talking, speeding, swerving. Every day I encounter a driver who is speeding and partially on my side on a perfectly wide country road that many of you know well. Why?
I’ve been to Dublin twice in the last month and each time I noticed that not one car stayed behind us on the motorway. Even though we were travelling at the 120 limit. This means that every single person was speeding. Every single one. Why?
And yes, we all ended up in the same group at each set of traffic lights, toll stop etc. All it did was cost them fuel – OK – call me smug!
Right now I’m sitting in Fusion hairdressers thinking about the nine drivers I saw on their phones on the short drive to here. I counted on purpose, knowing I’d be writing this here. Nine. That’s a lot, on a quiet morning, on a five mile stretch. What’s going on? (Oh boy I’m looking forward to the head massage later!)
Every time I see someone driving dangerously I report it where possible. I also tweet the companies if I see a logo on their van or truck. This is not to seek revenge, it’s because it’s one way I can make myself feel a little safer.
In my work I see the trauma resulting from accidents every week. It’s shocking. And it’s on both sides I assure you. The people who are not at fault and the people who are. The weight of that guilt and responsibility is a burden beyond the normal. I don’t want to be in either situation. But I can’t completely control that. None of us can completely control that. But we can be a voice and ask that please, please please, be mindful and careful when you are driving.
When we drive we literally have control (or not) over whether or not a person dies or lives with catastrophic injury. A real person. Like you. A person with kids and family and friends. Like yours. There’s no coming back from this. And it will be on you. Just you. It won’t be the phone’s fault or the person in front of you who was not going fast enough for your liking.
And don’t get me started on drink driving. Some people say it’s terrible not to be able to drive legally after a pint or two. If you need alcohol to enjoy your night out then the driving law is probably not the most helpful thing for you to focus your energy on. And this is not a judgement. I hope to doesn’t land as such. This is a plea to your humanity because here’s the thing: I really do believe that the vast majority of us are lovely people.
But we do get notions, we have moods, we allow ourselves be distracted, and we can be selfish.
The rules of the road, like our laws, took years to put together. They are not to annoy us, or curtail our fun. Rules are not made to be broken. They are there to keep us all safe.Is that text or showing off how fast you can go as important to you as my life? #roadsafety… tweet to other drivers
Why do we road rage?
Some psychologists say that road rage and anger from drivers who are otherwise calm is about control. I feel that it’s more helpful to go a little deeper – WHY do we need control? WHY do we feel anger? For me it’s about fear.
I felt afraid when that driver cut across me. I feel afraid very time I see a car careering towards me on the wrong side of the white line. Underneath the anger I really feel fear when I see a driver texting and a sadness that that text is more important to them than my or their safety. Of course we all want to control other peoples’ driving. That’s because believe that will make us safer and/or get us what we want.
In the heat of the moment we quickly convert fear and sad into anger and rage.
This is why I leant on the horn on Wednesday morning. This is why drivers flip the bird when they’re overtaken too closely or when pedestrians nearly get knocked down and hear a car horn bip. And as for the people who are speeding? Some are simply thoughtless and selfish, yes, that’s probably true. But also true is that some people are distracted by tiredness, grief, anxiety, children fighting in the back. Could we be more forgiving and understanding that people will make mistakes that while they are scary, they are not personal attacks?
A couple of months ago I received some bad news and that day day I pulled out in front of a car in the city without indicating. A driver blasted their horn. My action triggered fear in them. And in me of course. But if they hadn’t done that I might have kept going, distracted, unfocussed and we’d have had an incident. So thank you to that driver.
Research tells us that around 80% of us think that we are better drivers than most other people – a statistical impossibility.
Do you feel you’re a better than average driver? Far more likely you are not. Nor am I.
So here’s my plea, put the damn phone away, and trust that you’ll get to your destination even if you keep a safe distance between you and the person in front of you. Even if you stick to the speed limit. And if you’re distracted, notice that, and focus on your driving for the journey. You can return to real life when you’ve arrived safely.
And I hope you arrive safely.