When I’m driving, am I driving?

#Comment by Carlos Herrero Oses. Navarra, Spain

#According to statistics, hundreds of people die annually due to car accidents, without taking into account all kinds of injuries, damages to property and the suffering it entails.

The principal cause of these accidents is not following the rules, and specially alcohol drugs, distractions while driving, speeding, disregarding traffic signs, overtaking, incorrect maneuvering, disregarding the use of protective gear, etc. But, what does the attention to the present have to do with road safety, especially on car accidents? A lot, actually, as its use could reduce significantly both accidents and their consequences. The underlying causes of not following the rules have a lot to do with not paying attention, with fixed and irresponsible mental patterns, with not taking other people into account, with having our “point of view” about things and with letting ourselves be trapped by our emotions. All of this influences the practice of paying attention to the present, and this practice has benefits in our lives. Good driving and road safety are an area of it. “When I’m driving, I’m driving”, that is, I’m in the present, in what I’m doing. Most times when we drive we are in what it’s called a “wandering mind”, that is, we’re thinking about other things, planning, remembering difficulties, imagining things, being preoccupied, stressed, thinking about getting to our destinations, etc. All this means that we’re not paying attention to the road, to the other vehicles or the traffic signs, and this emotional state prevents us from taking the best decisions. For example, when we use our mobile phones, even if we are not using our hands, we are paying attention to the call and we’re not conscious of the road, we drive in “automatic pilot” so to speak, and that can cause many accidents. Who hasn’t gotten to their destination without remembering the roads they took or the details of the trip? Another example would be speeding, disregarding traffic rules and a bad perception of circumstances. Generally, this happens because we are in a hurry, because we have false beliefs, because of inattention, because we see events through our particular mental filters, because we identify our feelings as stress, aggressiveness, overestimation, excess of confidenceā€¦

Intentional attention to the present helps us focus in what we’re doing; to manage the emotions we’re experiencing; to dismantle beliefs about driving; to see the real reason why we break the rules; to respect other drivers and have empathy; and to have a better understanding of ourselves. This will make us respond instead of react constantly and unconsciously with the behaviors that we learned in our past. In turn, when we pay attention we can see all the “bad habits” we have acquired over the years we have been driving and modify them. Driving can become a good practice opportunity, don’t you think? Can I see myself reflected in some old pattern? Can I contribute to a safer road?

Have a nice trip and a happy practice!