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Module 2

Attitude, Emotions and Medical Conditions

Why having the right attitude toward driving is important

New drivers often make the mistake of thinking that driving skills and knowledge of traffic laws are all that’s needed for them to be safe on the road.  Of course, you already are aware that drivers must be able to start a vehicle, reach the gas and break pedals with their feet, set the transmission to the proper gear, steer the vehicle while watching the environment for hazards, operate the wipers, lights, and other features of the vehicle, and much, much more.

But did you know that driving is estimated by some experts to be 95% mental activity and only 5% physical activity?

Driving safely requires good mental clarity, the ability to focus, emotional control and maturity, on top of knowing and understanding the rules of the road. Driving is a skill that requires the complete focus of the driver, who must be able to make good driving decisions in every type of weather, know the dynamics of the particular vehicle, have good spatial orientation, know how to make evasive maneuvers when there is an obstacle or unexpected hazard, how to control the vehicle when it skids, and how to steer and brake properly.

Because of all of the above, the right attitude toward driving is a very important factor for anyone operating a motor vehicle on our road. So what exactly is the right attitude toward driving?  It can be stated clearly in 3 simple words:  Take it seriously.

Taking it seriously

Have you ever wondered why you have to wait until you’re 16 to get a driver’s license?  After all, back when you were 12 or 13, you were probably tall enough and certainly physically capable of all of the following:  sitting at the wheel of a car and reaching the pedals, handling the steering wheel, and operating the various other devices.

The reason that the laws were written setting the minimum age at 16 is because before that age, teens are generally considered to be too immature to understand the absolute seriousness of what a person is undertaking when he or she takes a 2-ton vehicle out on the road.  Unfortunately, many teens who have arrived at the age of 16 and have gotten their license are still not taking it seriously enough.

Watch The Video: Teen Drivers – The High Risk Years

In today’s world, unfortunately, many drivers still do not take it seriously; many still attempt to use mobile phones while driving, which increases the risk of driving dramatically. Both talking and texting on phones is dangerous, however, texting in particular is far more dangerous because drivers often take their eyes off the road when texting, which increases the chance that the driver will miss an unexpected event. Several studies have found that using cellphones while driving is even more dangerous than driving while intoxicated, and that the mental impairment caused by mobile phones is also greater than alcohol intoxication.

Before a driver gets in the vehicle, they must be awake and alert, mentally focused, have a proper understanding of the direction they are heading, have an awareness of the rules of the road, and be fully aware of the environment. Drivers should not drive if they feel emotionally disturbed or stressed, as this can lead to a higher incidence of accidents and the inability to properly react to different driving circumstances.

And no one should ever attempt to operate a motor vehicle if they are intoxicated on any substance, which includes but is not limited to alcohol, narcotics, marijuana, and other drugs that can result in mental impairment, as this is one of the main causes of accidents throughout the world.

Drivers must be aware that they are piloting a vehicle that weighs anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 pounds or more, and that dozens of risks are involved whenever they get behind the wheel. A vehicle should never be operated aggressively or recklessly and without due regard to the potential devastation that it can cause.

In spite of the fact that there are over 30,000 fatal crashes each year in the United States, many drivers continue to operate their vehicles aggressively and break the rules of the road by speeding or driving without a concern for others. It is this attitude that leads to some of the most dangerous car accidents, along with those who attempt to drive while intoxicated.

Abusing the privilege of driving a vehicle is almost always likely to boomerang so that many careless drivers find that they have not only hurt themselves, and maybe others, or have lost their driving privileges when they drive their vehicles without caution. The reality is that a vehicle is a potential weapon and many people do not drive with this in mind.

All of this doesn’t mean drivers should be afraid of driving, but they should not be so reckless that they forget that their vehicle can most definitely hurt other people, including those who are riding with them. Having the proper driver attitude can keep a person safe throughout their lives while they are driving and also help them avoid several accidents.

Driving with Disturbed Emotions

As we have seen, one of the first requirements for safe driving is that drivers must focus completely on the driving task. But driving also requires a relaxed attitude, because one of the main factors that lead to accidents is the mental state of the driver. Driving while stressed, anxious, angry or sleepy is particularly dangerous.

Angry drivers are dangerous because they are more likely to make dangerous moves, speed, and tailgate. Anxious driving can result in a driver making an unnecessary maneuver or overreacting to a hazard and causing an accident. Anxious drivers also often drive too slowly, which can be dangerous in many different situations, especially on the highway.

Drivers with disturbed emotions are more likely to ignore important signs or rules of the road. People who drive when they are irritated or emotional are more likely to make a wrong decision behind the wheel and make a mistake. The emotional driver is almost the most dangerous driver on the road— second only to the intoxicated driver.

Distressed drivers are likely to make unsafe lane changes, are likely to speed, they may not be aware of their surroundings, and they may also not be aware of upcoming hazards. In general, they are less conscious than they normally are of everything that is going on at the moment, which is always a dangerous state of mind to be in when operating a motor vehicle. Anyone who feels emotionally unstable, upset, or is simply in a bad mood, should avoid driving because of the known potential dangers of driving while in an emotional state.

Controlling Emotions when Driving

In order for drivers to make sure that they can drive without any problems, they must focus on controlling their emotions as much as possible prior to getting into their vehicle. However, if a driver becomes emotional while driving or is distracted by something, they should pull over to a safe location, stop, take a rest, and calm down prior to attempting to drive again. Again, when drivers attempt to drive without taking the time and effort to calm down, they are much more likely to get into an accident because of the mental fogginess and lack of focus that negative emotions can cause.

Emotional control is key to being able to avoid road rage situations. The driver who exercises the best self-control will not only have the easiest time driving, but will be able to avoid many conflicts and situations on the road that often turn out badly for those who fail to exert control.

Mental and physical effects of emotions

Scientific studies have provided us with an understanding of the reasons why driving in an emotional state is dangerous. Emotions have a major effect on every thought and action that a person has. For instance, a person who is angry may be more likely to turn their steering wheel more sharply when turning, because anger often results in stronger physical actions than usual.

We all know this for a fact: if you’ve never actually witnessed an angry person slam the door when leaving a room, you surely must have seen that happen in a movie. There is always some effect on a person when they feel a particular emotion, and although everyone reacts differently to their own emotions, any unnecessary or dangerous reaction can be very dangerous while driving.

Think about it: there’s a big difference here:  If you slam a door as you leave a room, that may have taken 2 or 3 seconds, and if you immediately realize it was a mistake to do that, you can walk back in and “fix” things by apologizing, etc.  But if you are at the wheel of a car, driving at the speed limit of 55 mph, and something distracts you so that you take your mind—and your eyes— off the road, all it takes is 2 or 3 seconds for you to make a terrible mistake with consequences that you will never have any opportunity to fix.

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is driving while engaging in any activity that draws a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving.  Today, the largest group of people who think they can beat the odds involved in distracted driving are drivers under the age of 20, who make up 11% of all drivers involved in fatal crashes caused by distracted driving.

This should not come as a surprise: Any driver under 20 today is part of the electronic-media generation, known for taking great pride in their ability to multitask.  They have apparently gone from the early-teen remark, “Oh, I always do my homework while I’m watching TV, on the phone and tweeting” to the later teen boast that they can drive and, even if they are obeying the law and aren’t texting, can still chat with friends in the back seat simultaneously.

Anyone who believes that driving is an area where multitasking is a useful ability simply does not understand what’s at stake.

To get an idea of why that’s so, consider a simple everyday thought like this:  “I’m hungry.”  OK, now you remember the food in the bag somewhere nearby.  How long might it take, for example, to find a bag (searching with one hand) and then dig through it to find a sandwich, and then success!.. but you still need to unwrap it and then…….you get the picture.  The car is rolling all this time.

How many seconds was that?   You might say, only a few….yes, indeed, only a few, but consider:

At 60 mph— less than freeway speed— if you glance down for just 2 seconds to unwrap a sandwich, insert a CD, or change the climate control, you have traveled blindly for 176 feet – more than half the length of a football field!

Some trusting souls think they can overcome this situation by making sure the steering wheel remains in a fixed position going straight ahead — by keeping one hand on the wheel or by propping the wheel against their knees.  This might work in a controlled experiment in a lab with a dry track, but out on the road, look out!

Any sudden thing that comes up that you didn’t see before—even if’s not a big thing like a car but “a little itty-bitty thing” like a puddle or a patch of gravel covering the road – can present a hazard. With eyes off the road, you won’t be able to take evasive action.  Even if you do look back to the road in time, you’ll most likely need to have both hands available instantaneously to avoid disaster.

Remember, it can take only 3 seconds of “not minding the store” for a driver moving at highway speed to lose control of their vehicle.

Human beings have a wide range of different emotions and all of them can cause different effects when driving. One of the main effects is simply distraction; when drivers are emotional they are focused on the particular emotion or thought that is making them feel that way instead of the situation on the road.

This is the main problem with any emotional state while driving:  it causes distraction, and it doesn’t make any difference whether the driver is emotionally upset or the opposite: occupied with positive thoughts. No matter what, drivers must focus on the task at hand, so the best drivers are those who are able to block out any irrelevant thoughts during the period of time that they’re behind the wheel.

Some of the physiological effects of emotions include an increased heart rate, the release of adrenalin, which can cause a wide range of different effects, an inability to focus, restlessness, muscle tension, upset stomach, chest pain, fatigue, and many other symptoms. Clearly all of these symptoms can have a major effect on a person while they are driving, and they can most definitely affect the operation of the vehicle. Drivers must be aware of their emotional state and understand the importance of focusing on the act of driving to guarantee their safety and the proper operation of the vehicle.

Passenger emotions and their effect on a driver

In Nevada, once a teen driver under age 18 has received a full license, he or she is restricted from transporting passengers under age 18, other than immediate family members, for the first 6-months of driving with that new driver license. There is good reason for this. Statistics show (and you’ll probably agree) that passengers your own age are distracting, whether they mean to be or not. The fact is, a passenger is just one more thing that can affect the focus of the driver.

The emotional state of the passengers in a vehicle can most definitely have an effect on a driver, and it is important for passengers to be aware of this so that they do not disturb the driver or make his job more difficult.

A “backseat driver” is a passenger that makes comments about the way the driver is handling the job of driving—anything from constantly suggesting a different route that he should’ve taken to annoying the driver with their fear or uncertainty about his driving abilities. In most cases this ends up having a negative impact on the driver and just makes the driver’s job more difficult when they are already attempting to focus on the road. Likewise, passengers who are rowdy, angry, or emotional in any way will often distract a driver from the road and draw their attention away from a potentially dangerous situation.

This is why a driver must take into account passengers’ emotional state before allowing them into the vehicle. As a driver, it is your responsibility to restrict those passengers that may have an adverse effect on your ability to drive safely. And passengers must understand that they have a major impact on a driver’s ability to focus, and therefore they simply must be as patient and self-controlled as possible while the vehicle is in motion. Passengers need to understand the dangers of driving just as drivers do, and this is especially important when the driver is navigating through heavy traffic.

Passengers must be courteous to the driver and they should try to help them with driving rather than simply enjoying the ride. A passenger can help a driver avoid an accident by pointing out a potential hazard or a pedestrian that the driver may not have seen. Passengers do not need to annoy the driver with everything that is going on at the moment, but they should also not be completely unaware about what is going on in many cases, especially if the driver is newer or in any kind of emotional or fatigued state. Passengers can also greatly help a driver with navigation and directions, which every driver needs help with sometimes, in spite of their ability.

Physical senses and driving

Drivers receive information through their physical senses about their surroundings, and anything that affects a driver’s physical senses can be potentially dangerous. For instance, any type of blockage on the windshield such as ice, snow, or condensation blocks a driver’s vision, which is always dangerous. A windshield obstruction can pop up quite suddenly—for example, when driving through some of our vast desert areas, a large tumbleweed can blow up without warning—and should be removed as quickly as possible

Any type of substance that affects the driver’s ability to see, hear, and touch the vehicle is also very dangerous, and that is why drugs and intoxicants like alcohol make driving very dangerous. Drivers must keep their physical senses sharp and clear of any distractions at all. Sometimes this may mean driving without music if a driver needs to hear well, and this is particularly important for bus or truck drivers. Even car drivers must listen to music at a volume that does not distract them from driving at all.

Drivers should also be in good physical condition; they must be able to react quickly and sometimes make evasive maneuvers when they are faced with a dangerous situation. Drivers with fast reflexes and good vehicle control are some of the best drivers because they can avoid accidents in many circumstances, even when another driver is making the road dangerous.

Fatigue

Fatigue is one of the most potentially dangerous conditions for a driver. Drivers who are fatigued are far more likely to get into an accident. The effects of fatigue on a person’s ability to drive are many. There are over 100,000 accidents every year that are caused by fatigue.

And fatigue doesn’t just cause a lot of accidents, but many of those accidents are fatal. What these statistics mean, in a nutshell, is that fatigue is ranked as one of the primary causes of accidents along with drunk driving and emotional/aggressive driving. If most people were to avoid driving while tired, emotional or intoxicated, the death and injury rate for vehicle accidents would drop dramatically.

There are many types of drivers who are at risk of driving fatigued because of their professions. For instance, truck drivers must drive for very long periods of time, for thousands of miles at a time. Recently, there have been legal restrictions for the number of hours that truck drivers are allowed to operate their vehicles because of some of the accidents that have occurred due to fatigued commercial driving. The same restrictions apply for other types of drivers such as taxi and delivery drivers.

Although most people are aware of the effects of drinking and driving, fewer people think about how fatigue affects driving in a similar manner. Like alcohol, fatigue causes drivers to react more slowly to their surroundings, impairs their judgment, decreases reaction time, and as a result, fatigue makes drivers more likely to be involved in an accident.

One of the reasons that people think they can conquer sleepiness is that they simply do not understand how the human body works, especially what its needs are.  While everybody knows that you need water and food, they also know that with strong self-control, you can still function for quite a long time without food–people on a hunger strike, for example, can last for weeks if they get enough water.

This type of self-control, however, is not at all the case with sleep, which is also a basic biological need.  Studies in recent years have proven that self-control does not work in the case of sleep; what this means is that even if you try very, very hard to stay awake, when a certain point is reached, the body will take what it needs, regardless of what you want, and you will fall asleep.

If that point is reached when you’re driving, you may snap awake again in a few seconds’ time — but it only takes 2 or 3 seconds of not paying attention for a car to begin a plunge off the road, or even worse, a swerve into the oncoming traffic.  When you snap awake, it may already be too late to take corrective action.

Besides professional drivers, certain other groups of people have been identified as being more at risk of fatigued driving.  In general, adults between the ages of 18 to 29 are more likely to drive while fatigued compared to older adults. Men are also more likely to drive while fatigued than women, and adults with children are also more likely than those without children. The more sleep-deprived a person is while driving, the greater their risk of being involved in an accident.

Almost 71% of adults in the United States commute to work by driving, and many of these drivers are drowsy because they may work long shifts or may be driving while being sleep deprived. Sometimes this is referred to as “drowsy driving.” It’s clear that fatigued driving is a major problem and adults can reduce their risk of fatigued driving by ensuring that they get the recommended amount of sleep every night and prior to driving.

Who is at Risk of Fatigued or Drowsy Driving?
  • People driving alone
  • People who drive long distance without regular breaks
  • People driving during the time they are normally asleep
  • People who do shift work
  • Young drivers who stay up late, get a lack of sleep and drive at night
Signs that Indicate You are Fatigued
  • Driving without realizing what has happened over the last few miles
  • Drifting from your lane or striking the rumble strip on the side of the road
  • Yawning repeatedly
  • Difficulty keeping your eyes open
  • Missing traffic signs
  • Head bobbing
  • Sudden movements to maintain your travel lane
Tips to Avoid Driving While Fatigued
  • Get a good night’s sleep. The average teenager needs about 8 hours of sleep every night
  • When you travel long distances, bring a companion. A vehicle passenger can help detect signs of fatigue, plus you can trade off driving responsibilities. Make sure your passenger stays awake with you!
  • When driving long distances, be sure to stop for a break at least every 2 hours
  • Read and adhere to warning labels on your medications. Both prescribed and over the counter medications can cause drowsiness.

Road rage

“Road rage” is a common occurrence amongst drivers and has increasingly become a problem. Road rage is usually provoked by some driving action that causes a negative response from another driver who is affected by that action, such as cutting someone off, tailgating, speeding, using rude hand gestures, etc.

Road rage can be dangerous; some drivers with road rage have actually physically attacked—even killed—other drivers, while other drivers often perform dangerous driving maneuvers in response to road rage. When drivers experience road rage they are much more likely to make a brash decision that could get themselves or someone else hurt.

A driver is, whether all drivers recognize it or not alone on the road, but is a member of a social group while driving. The sad fact, though, is that not every driver shows the simple basic courtesy that such a group demands.  While driving, people often say and do things to perfect strangers that they would never say or do to strangers while walking down the street.

The man who tailgates when he is at the wheel of his car simply would not behave the same way if he were just walking.  No matter how crowded the street, nor how much of a hurry he’s in, he would not think of stepping on the heels of another pedestrian to make him go faster.  It seems as though having a car surrounding a person’s body serves as an imaginary suit of armor for some individuals, making them feel both powerful and invulnerable.

Watch The Video

Avoiding anger and road rage while driving is one of the most important skills a person can have, because as cities throughout the world grow, there are more and more drivers on the road which means that there are more opportunities for road rage to occur.

There are two parts to avoiding road rage:  (1) keeping calm, in order to keep your own annoyance at another driver’s actions from escalating into road rage that you might be tempted to express, and (2) avoiding another driver on the road who is already acting aggressively.

As for No. (1) above, keeping your own annoyance under control, notice that we’re not saying “Don’t be annoyed.”  That would be unrealistic; we’re all human, and when another driver does something stupid or dangerous, it will annoy you, and maybe your initial thought will be “I’m going to teach him a lesson.”

Many inexperienced drivers make that error in judgment; for example, if another driver is tailgating them, they will get away from him, and then instead of ignoring him, will maneuver in traffic to get behind him and tailgate him…. as if to say, “See how it feels?”

So, if that kind of reaction on your part is not an option, let’s talk about what you should do.  Let’s get back to the point where you’ve just become aware of the other driver’s bad behavior. This is where your responsibility to always put safety first kicks in:  even though the other driver did something that could endanger you and others, it is not your responsibility to “teach that driver a lesson” by reacting to him in any way at all.

Instead, your responsibility is to re-focus on your own safe driving techniques.  An easy way to help yourself calm down, when you feel your annoyance level rising, is to remind yourself that the driver causing the trouble obviously doesn’t know how to drive safely. and since he hasn’t learned much so far, your idea of “teaching him a lesson” would not mean a thing to him, and will instead endanger you.

As for No. (2), above, avoiding someone you’ve identified as an aggressive driver.  The answer to how to accomplish that is simplicity itself:  Get as far away from that driver as fast as is safely possible.  Period.

There are all types of drivers including young and inexperienced drivers, elderly drivers, drivers who cannot drive as fast, or react as fast as others and more. Avoiding road rage involves having respect for every driver and knowing that not everyone has the ability to drive perfectly. Also, there are some drivers who, although highly skilled in the technical aspects of driving, aren’t socially conscious and tend to drive aggressively ;.

The Effects of Physical Disabilities and Medical Conditions on Driving

There are many people with physical handicaps and limitations who are still good drivers. You should be aware that a physical limitation does not necessarily mean that a person is barred from driving. There has been much progress in recent years adapting vehicles by installing special equipment for people with many different types of handicaps. For instance, drivers who cannot use their legs can still drive if they have a vehicle specially created so that they can operate the gas pedal and brakes using their hands only.

Some disabilities will disqualify a driver no matter what, while others can be worked around. For instance, drivers who are legally blind (through complete or partial loss of vision) cannot qualify for a driver license, while people with vision in one eye are normally allowed to drive. Drivers with conditions like narcolepsy or chronic seizures may not legally be able to drive due to the high risk of an accident.

A medical history is required in Nevada, as in most other states, for a disabled person who wishes to get a license. It is now possible to drive without the use of both arms, both legs, with paralysis on one side of the body and with a neurological condition. Again, many aspects of the vehicle may need to be modified and the driver will undergo specialized training but with the latest technological advancements, driving with a physical disability is most definitely possible.

Special parking spaces are reserved for handicapped drivers; you will learn the details about the laws covering this in a later module. But for now, it’s important that you understand that a persons who are granted the privilege of using handicapped parking do not always have a disability that can be seen by others.  For instance, the person may look perfectly normal but actually has a serious heart condition and has been issued the handicapped parking permit because their doctor has instructed them to limit their walking (handicapped parking spaces are usually placed very close to the entrance of a building).

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