Defensive Driving Blog

Mindless Driving and Defensive Driving

Are you following an unconscious script when you drive? Let’s examine defensive driving vs mindless driving.

Is driving a routine?Whether we know it or not, we all have “scripts” for what we do every day in our normal routine. Psychologists define a script as “executing a sequence of actions appropriate to the situation base on habit and practice” (Dr. Leon James, 2012). For instance when we enter a restaurant we know what to do: wait to be seated, order from the menu, eat, pay the bill, etc. That is our restaurant “script”. Driving is very much the same – we develop driving behaviors that are practiced daily and become so automatic that we are no longer aware of them.

There are separate scripts for every driving situation and for what you expect from your passengers. You may drive differently on the highway by yourself than you would in a crowded parking lot with a car full of kids. Our scripts are influenced by not only our own driving experience, but by driving habits of our parents or other adults we had to drive with while growing up.

So is there a down side to having a set script for your driving? Not necessarily but scripts tend to include negative behaviors that you may not even be conscious of, including prejudices and stereotypes. Take lady drivers for instance. Have you even been with someone who becomes impatient with someone driving too slowly in front of them and pulls around, looks at the driver and says:
“Oh, it’s a lady driver. No wonder she doesn’t know what she’s doing”. There are a number of unfair biases that creep into our driving psychology that color our attitudes toward others on the road.

If you could sit down and list the number of assumptions you make about drivers based on age, ethnicity, types of cars, sex, etc., it would probably be quite a shock. But how do these interfere with driving? I think it is easy to see that these scripts can create mounds of negative feelings toward other drivers and cause our own driving  behavior to be more irrational.  The constant drain of those behaviors can affect us emotionally and intellectually. We see the culmination of this in “road rage” incidents where the anger and resentment toward other drivers finally builds to the breaking point.

Don’t let long held beliefs or “scripts” about how others should driver cloud your ability to be a good driver. Identify consciously each time that you have one of these thoughts and become more aware of how often they occur. Once identified you can take steps to re-write your script.  Label each negative reaction as inappropriate and toss it  out of your head. At the very least take a minute to think about why you feel a certain way and consider re-writing that feeling. Doing this can help you be a more considerate and less aggressive driver.

And for all the information you need to be a good defensive driver go to

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