Musings of a Traffic Psychologist in Traffic 

Dr. Leon James

For years Leon James as "DrDriving," has been recording his thoughts in traffic by speaking into a tape recorder. This chapter is an extract from his many self-witnessing tapes.



CARtoon 14-1
Community-Building Forces
Two men sitting at a bar talking. One says: "...So I chased him for several miles riding on his tail and honking at him. I'm worried about these deep seated emotions. What if I go too far? You don't suppose I need a shrink, do you?" The other man answers: "I used to be like that but now I'm a practicing traffic psychologist and I can help you become one too." Bottom Caption reads: "SHARING"

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Convoys Ahead

Yeah, I'll let him in. Let him in. There. Hey, he waves at me. That feels good. That's okay, buddy, okay. Glad to do it for you. Just put your blinkers on. I had to do the same thing just a few minutes back. I had to fight my way in because nobody would let me. Facilitative driving make things so much more peaceful, less stressful. More spiritual. More noble.

Hey, watch it, man. He's honking at me because I had to come from the left into the middle. And he thought that was too close behind me. It's true it was too close. I panicked. I couldn't wait and miss my turn. So he passed me on the left, honked at me and then raised his fist at me. Boy, how do you like that? I don't get that too often, do I? In fact, it's the first time that I can remember in many years.

The Need for Traffic Inspectors

Here's my favorite hill. I like to push the engine and race up, up. It's green so here I go. Look at that cop on the motorcycle right behind me. Good thing I saw him. All of a sudden a new form of behavior is required. Quick what's the speed limit here? 35 or 45? Probably 35. I'm going 45. He's right behind me. Oh, no. No, no, must be 45. Come on, why aren't there any signs here! If I go too fast he's gonna nab me. If I go too slow he'll be mad at me. Stress, stress. I can't stand this. Oh, boy, he's passing me on the right. Guess he's in a hurry somewhere. Ah, he's turning right. No time to bother with me. Ooff.

This morning there was a cop on a motorcycle that suddenly showed up among the cohort and all of a sudden the cohort turns good instead of bad. There were about five or six cars in the pack. We were traveling at 55 m.p.h. in the 45 zone and we were following each other at one car length distance. Too close for safety, but totally normal. So now that the motorcycle cop is among us, all of a sudden we slow down and we are keeping double the normal distance. All the time the cop was riding with us, there was peace going on. People weren't frantically switching. Speed limit was being respected. It was great. I was watching a totally new dynamic among the convoy. All it took was this one motorcycle cop in the middle of us, which suggests that the city might very well think of hiring people who are entitled to report infractions who are riding on motorcycles or cars, whatever.

And they have a little computer and they report infractions. And they need to be clearly marked so people can see them easily. It would stimulate all of us to stay within safe driving practices. We wouldn't do all those risky things if these inspector cars were around. All they do is report infractions they see. Then the car owners get a citation in the mail. Or maybe they can keep a computerized databank on every driver and when a certain number of these infraction reports come in, it triggers the computer to send you a citation. Before renewing your license, the computer will print out the yearly record of your driving. The cost of your license renewal would then be proportional to the number of infractions on your record. This kind of system would reward those who are good drivers and make it costlier to those who insist on remaining bad drivers. Makes sense. It's a rational way of managing human behavior. We desperately need it.

Wow. The accordion effect has got me in this left lane. I want to get out of here, but I can't. It's solid everywhere, left and right. I'm in the tunnel actually right now. Fortunately we're still moving. I hate getting caught in the tunnel. Makes me feel claustrophobic. I hate it. Once the flow stops there is no way out and it starts smelling real bad and I start feeling like I can't breathe. Yuk. Right now I'm still moving at 40 miles per hour, right in the middle of the convoy. I see a clearing up ahead. I think I'll be able to go over to the right after this pick-up truck gains some speed, It seems to be going so slowly. Oh, no. Meanwhile I forgot to put on the lights in the tunnel with all this reporting going on. Maybe that's not fair. After all, I've forgotten to put on my lights at other times when I wasn't self-witnessing.

See Beatty's Fascinating Discovery of Traffic Waves

Masculine and Feminine Modes of Driving

It so happens that this cohort of six cars is made up of me and five women drivers. That makes me feel more secure. I trust feminine style driving more than masculine driving. Like me for instance. I'm a masculine driver and I love it. Diane is a feminine driver and she loves it. They're totally different. Of course a woman can drive in a masculine style if she wants to, and a man can drive in a feminine style. Like me. I drive in a feminine style when Diane is with me. She gets so frightened when I drive my regular masculine style. So what's the difference? I mean exactly. That's something for traffic psychologists to discover.

Diane says I'm a masculine driver when I do something that alarms her. Like when I gain speed fast after the light turns green. Or when I veer quickly in and out of lanes, generally handling the car like it's a horse rather than some solid rectangular object. I love that feeling. What am I going to do about it? It's not a good metaphor for me. I'm too enamored with the picture of cowboys on quarter horses. It's some childhood fantasy that delights me and plagues me. Diane says, "Think of your car as a big tractor rather than a horse." So the feminine mode thinks of the car as a big tractor while the masculine mode thinks of the car as a horse or guided missile. Sounds like the feminine image of a car is big and solid. The masculine image of a car is light, maneuverable, and speedy.

O.K., now that's gonna make a big difference in how men and women drive if, and that's a big if, men drive mostly in a masculine mode while women drive mostly in a feminine mode. If it were up to me I would vote for all of us learning to drive mostly in the feminine mode. Still I must admit that right now I don't know how women drivers feel and think in traffic and whether they're different from men. Take for instance a woman who's driving in a masculine mode. This just proves that women can do it too. It doesn't tell me whether the women have similar thoughts and feelings as the men. I know for instance that when I drive in the feminine mode, I'm not really driving like Diane because my thoughts are different, and the feelings I like or tolerate are different from her list. I'm a man who's simulating a feminine driving mode as if I'm wearing a Diane Patrick costume of different drivers.

Yeah. That feels right. I simulate a feminine style of driving -- on the outside at the sensorimotor level. But inside, at the affective and cognitive level, it's still good old me. Or bad of' me. Nah! Just joking. I can hear Diane saying, "You shouldn't joke about being bad. It's serious you know!" And I agree with her. Yes I do. See, there's a masculine driver. He's behind an El Camino in the right lane. I'm coming up in the left lane. So he just moves into my left lane real fast without signaling. I had to take off my foot off the gas and tap my brake slightly. He could've spared me the trouble by waiting his turn till after I passed.

O.K., I shouldn't be so intolerant and egocentric. He passes the truck and moves right back into the right lane. No signaling. I guess he thinks of it as a little hop out to the left and a hop back to the right. The whole thing takes only 15 or 20 seconds. No harm done. Everything is back the way it was. There was no need to signal left, then right. Too much ritual and effort. Hey how do I know all this about what he's thinking? I know because I'm it. Yeah, I'm it. I do it too. You do it too. He does and she does it too. We all do it. That' how I know.

I come up on him now. Almost shoulder to shoulder. Hey, Mister. Excuse me. Get a life. Don't try to take mine. How rude. Yeah, how rude. I keep going. I didn't say that out loud. I didn't make a face at him. I didn't give him the stink eye. I didn't ridicule him in my mind. I'm trying to be good. Yeah. Trying to be good. I'm a reformed driver now. Yup. Yessiree. I'm a traffic psychologist now. I'm on the good side now. I'm leaving him behind now. I'm not overdoing it. I'm not revving my engine. I'm not bolting. Just easing into it faster and faster till I don't see him any more. So that's a masculine driver. Who me or him? Hey, I guess the both of us!

Of course women can drive in the masculine mode, like the neighbor who told us she carries a toy gun that has three noisy settings. One is shooting. Another is a grenade and the other is a guided missile. Still, I'm convinced that traffic psychology will discover that, as in so many other things, the feminine mode is safer than the masculine mode. And so men would have to learn to drive in the feminine mode. Imagine, all males driving in the feminine mode on alternate days. Ha, ha. If you did it on alternate years, you could show a definite effect on accident rates.

And at the cognitive level we need to discover how driving mode affects men's conception of driving. When men drive in the feminine mode do they better understand their responsibilities on the road? Do they understand themselves better when they simulate driving in the feminine mode? If their thinking is different, their feelings must be different too because the two always go together, like Swedenborg says. So that's it: men can drive in a feminine mode even if they don't prefer that style. Then, they can feel differently than now. Yes that's it. It's perfect. It's gotta work that way. By compelling ourselves to drive in a feminine mode we're giving ourselves a chance to think differently, and this in turn will open up a whole new way of feeling in traffic. The consequences will be wonderful. We've got do it.

I think we might be able to show that the masculine mode of driving acts like a magnet for hostile and aggressive feelings. So that driving in the masculine mode, other so-called masculine traits are able to assert themselves in that person for seconds, minutes, or days, with all sorts of consequences for the person's relationships. Yeah, I bet you that's true. It's like leaven in the bread. It spreads throughout. So, when I drive in the masculine mode I literally attract aggressive emotions and hostile reactions. I start cursing and using terrible language that I'm very much against. I take risks that I disapprove of. And then it spreads in my mind. I'm rebellious and disrespectful. When other people are in jeopardy because of me, I am delighted. This evil mode now becomes my automatic driving self. But I refuse to accept this mode as a permanent expression of me. I'm fighting it and I'm gonna fight it forever.

Traffic Psychology and Spirituality

At the inmost level, traffic psychology deals with the motivations and intentions of the driver. This is the motorist's affective world or moral self because the driver's motives are involved. This affects the spiritual self because accepting your anti-social motives corrupts your spirit, while fighting them is noble and altruistic.

DIANE: I'm a feminine driver.

LEON: (Laughs) What's that?

DIANE: You terrorized me whenever I drove in the past.

LEON: Oh, when you drove, I terrorized you. Did I? How did I terrorize you?

DIANE: Oh, no, don't tell me you're going to pretend you have amnesia about that.

LEON: (Laughs) No.

DIANE: You amnesiac.

LEON: What, I used to talk differently? I used to yell at you? What did I do?

DIANE: You do have amnesia about this. I know. You have no recollection .

LEON: Which car are we talking about?

DIANE: Well, it was when you had the Capri. Sometimes I drove it and sometimes I drove you in my car. I don't remember. The pick-up truck was one of them.

LEON: And I used to terrorize you. I used to say to you, "Why are you driving this way, you fool?"

DIANE: That's right.

LEON: Like that? And I used to hit you?

DIANE: You used to swat me on my leg.

LEON: While you were driving I would actually say, "Don't do that."?

DIANE: Yes. Or, "I don't feel safe with you."


DIANE: Or "You're endangering my life."


DIANE: Or "I'm not going to let you drive the children."


DIANE: Which is a total lie because you wouldn't drive them around so I had to.

LEON: That was about your driving on the highway, right?

DIANE: No, it was about lots of things. It was about lots of things that you disapproved of in my driving.

LEON: What did I disapprove of, Darling?

DIANE: I went too fast. I didn't put the brakes on soon enough. I went in when I shouldn't have gone in. I was in the wrong lane. I -- Everything.

LEON: Oh, my God, I do have amnesia.

DIANE: Yeah. How convenient.

LEON: Oh, how awful.

DIANE: Call that selective amnesia.

LEON: Selective amnesia.

DIANE: You men don't remember the episodes of your life, but the women remember. And, even if men don't remember, they set themselves up as the arbiter of all that's true. So if they don't remember it, it's not true -- like thinking, "I wouldn't forget something as big as that."

LEON: That was definitely wrong. But I don't say that now, do I?

DIANE: No, no, I'm talking about men.

LEON: Oh, men. Yeah, I used to do that, true. Like other men who still do.


LEON: Personal growth is part of traffic psychology, isn't it?

DIANE: Traffic psychology is about relationships and interpersonal transactions with strangers. Driving is the area of focus but it's the person's orientation that's always the issue. You have to choose between fantasy exchanges with other drivers or authentic ones that build community and allow you to grow personally.

The Other Lane is Always Faster

I'm behind this guy in the left lane as we're coming down the hill. Another car is in the right lane. What's going on here. They're going about the same speed. Isn't that just dandy. The two of them won't let anybody get through. C'mon people. Someone speed up or slow down. Please. O.K., it looks like the guy in the right lane is gonna speed up a little. I'm moving over to the right. We're neck and neck. I'm gonna speed up and then cut in front of him. I need to get back into the left lane. So he speeds up. Figures. *#@*#!! So now I'm gonna get stuck in the right lane with the slow moving vehicles. I'm annoyed. But I shouldn't be. It's just something you can expect to happen. Maybe he's not doing it on purpose. Maybe it's just a coincidence that he sped up at the same time as me.

O.K., I'm letting him go ahead. I'm just going behind him in the left lane. I'm keeping my distance from him. Oh, shoot. Now, this guy's riding me because I'm on the left. So now I'm in the same situation that the other guy was a minute ago. Isn't that ironic? So now I'm going to have to speed up more than I want to. I'm moving over to the right lane and let him go by. All right, go you *#*@&*!! Go! Who's stopping you.

I realize that none of this language I'm using I really need. These are vestiges from the past when the emotions were intense. But now the emotion isn't there. It's just a vestigial facade I'm putting on. I don't really hate this guy. I'm not really crazy mad. Otherwise how could I instantly, within milliseconds be back to calmness? I explode but it's a fake. Not like before. Then it was real. I meant it. I elaborated on it. I embellished it. I delighted in it. But now it just comes out as a vestige. So I usually inhibit it. But sometimes I don't inhibit it.

Ha, ha, ha. As soon as I change to another lane, my new lane goes slower. Is this an illusion? It must be. I wish I knew for sure so I could be liberated from this compulsion. Anyway, why don't I just stay in the lane I'm in. That's how Diane drives. She doesn't fall for the illusion that the other lane is always going faster. Maybe it just gives me something to do. Still, I think that the other lane actually is going faster. What a handicap.

A whole different area for traffic psychology is automobile design. Like this car, Dodge Omni '91. Every time I put my hand where I grope for the lever that opens the hood, or when I want to disengage the hand brake, I encounter needles behind there. Yeah, sharp things. Whatever that plastic material is made of, it's so sharp, it's so incredibly sharp. Cuts my fingers. One day we should have self-witnessing reports from car owners to discover things like this. How comfortable you are. Does your back hurt? Like this seat is not so hot. I sort of sink and the small of my back is not supported. I guess that's why they sell cushions. But I hate them. They don't quite fit.

You dum-dum. Why won't you let me in? What do I have to do to get in here, huh? Unusually heavy traffic today. There's somebody who wants in. Alright, go ahead, I'll let you in. Oh, there's another one who wants in. He's not waiting for me to make space. Alright, go in, but that was no warning, man. Oops, that's a cop in an unmarked car. He's wearing his uniform. Go ahead. But why don't you put on your indicator, you cop?

Hey, what's this, an accident? That's what's been holding up the flow. Somebody spilled gasoline and they have to hose it down in the other lane there. Alright. Now we're picking up speed. That whole thing was only five minutes. It looked much worse. There's that cop again, changing lanes without putting his indicator on. What's the matter with him? How fast am I going? 50 miles an hour. That's okay. Speed limit is 50. Now, he's going off to the right. He's not after me. But why doesn't he use his indicator?

There's a whole big area also in traffic psychology having to do with youth, adolescents, and teenagers driving. For instance, how do they put on the brakes? How do they witness themselves driving? Do they care about such things as the damaging the car or reducing its value or saving one or more repairs? Are they money-conscious in car maintenance? Well, they probably aren't because they're still dependents and the money comes from their parents. So how does that affect their self-witnessing? How does one change attitude from being supported financially to paying for your own car? There's a whole new area there that's of interest to traffic psychology.

"Okay. Go Ahead. Be Mad At Me."

I'm waiting for the lights to change. Still Red... Green. Here I go. I'm in the left lane picking up speed. Oh, wow. I'm looking in my mirrors and this guy behind me is coming up real fast and since he didn't have to stop for the lights he's going to overtake me. But I'm already picking up speed. The distance between is getting smaller. Look at that. He's going to pass me on the right. He couldn't stand it. I was too slow for him.

So he's in the right lane. He obviously is trying to pass me. Ha, ha, but we're going up hill so he's got trouble passing. Alright, I shouldn't get him all riled up. Obviously he's determined to pass me for whatever reason. It doesn't matter. I'm releasing the pedal a little to I give him a chance to pass. Not too much, not too much. Let him feel like he won the race. If I slow down too suddenly he'll wonder what's going on, he might be upset, etc. I'm the one who's got to give in. Why me? Because I can. Because I trained myself so it wouldn't be fair to act like we're equals when he's still in the grips of the captivated driver syndrome. It would be like kicking a guy who's down. Un-sportsmanlike. I don't want to be that kind of person.

Balancing the Negative and Positive Bias

I'm on the freeway traveling at 50 miles an hour. I'm in the middle lane and I'm moving over into the left lane. I see this car in the left lane coming fast, fast, fast. My indicator is on. It's been on for three seconds. I hope he sees it. Oh, boy, oh, boy. He's still coming fast, fast, fast. Hey, you idiot, can't you see I'm already here? I'm half way into the left lane. Can't swerve back. O.K. Finally. Wow, he waited too long to put on his brakes. It's scary. Anyway, heh, heh, I foiled him.

Alright, time for analysis. You called this man an idiot. Does he really deserve the negative epithet? I confess to a feeling of satisfaction when I said, "you idiot." What about "I foiled him."? There's that feeling of satisfaction again. It proves that I'm not behaving like a reformed driver. I'm having a lapse here. I confess that I did see him in time, but decided to muscle in on him instead of waiting. I figured I can go faster than he can, so I should be first. Then I saw him coming on fast and braking late. Taking the negative bias point of view, I concluded that he was opposing my decision just to prove his superiority. I fell back into an egocentric orientation, ignoring the possibility that the other driver might not have seen me in time, and so he had to brake hard to avoid hitting me. Driver's inattention rather than driver's retaliation. Of course. I fell for it. Oh, boy, I reverted. Gotta watch it. Good thing I'm recording today.

I've got to be more specific in my self-witnessing practices. Like right now I don't remember what kind of mood I was in when I left home. I didn't check myself out. I just got into the car and drove off. I remember waving to Diane who was walking on the driveway to her car. I would say about this incident that it has to do with the kind of spirit that I'm in. I need to find out what puts me in that spirit when I start driving.

Don't go anywhere. Stay where you are. It's just slowing down momentarily. You can stand it. It's a beautiful day, look at the sky. I love to look at those tall downtown buildings. I love the one that's so skinny you can hardly believe it could be an office building. It's made of mirrors. That's all you can see, mirrors reflecting the sky and the other buildings. Look at that, it's picking up again. The slowdown only lasted about two minutes. I wonder what causes these inexplicable slowdowns. There is nothing on the surface to explain the slowdown. There are no obstructions or accidents or exits. It's one of the mysteries of traffic.

Yeah, it's a kind of parental, chastising spirit that I associate with while driving. Maybe it comes from the way we learn to drive. The conditions under which we are taught invokes the that state of mind. If you're taught to drive by a parent or relative, chances are you get yelled at and harassed in some way. So these punishing spirits return to us every time we drive. Amazing, isn't it? So the solution is to break the spiritual connection with punishing states of mind and invoke tolerant, fair-minded, and respectful attitudes. I can re-orient this way as soon as I'm willing to accept a higher principle than my own impulses. The punitive attitude cannot continue in the face of a harmless mentality.

The psychoanalytic or psychodynamic approach might say that I have an innate or instinctive impulse to put myself ahead of others. Darwinians call it the survival instinct or survival of the fittest. But no one has a good explanation for where this instinct comes from or how it is transmitted. The learning theory approach would say that I learned to behave in an egocentric and hostile manner through various role models. And once you become a driver you retain that role model. And that role model can be replaced with a more adaptive driving through new learning. Traffic psychology is a method for self-realization that provides opportunities for learning new driver roles.

The Poetry of Traffic

I'm waiting at the juncture. Somewhere I read that this is the busiest intersection. Look at them. Lines of cars coming from five directions, all main arteries. There must be over a hundred thousand cars crossing this intersection every morning and afternoon. It's been one minute, two minutes, three minutes. It's going to be another two minutes. People surround me. In one direction they all sit like me. Going in the other direction they all flip by. It's the poetry of driving in traffic, the realization of a bond, a bond between drivers and a greater bond between drivers within cohorts. It's a hierarchy like a phrase structure tree.

And what's wonderful is that the identity of these drivers that surround you keeps changing. So that you have a multiplicity of close neighbors in a one half-hour drive. And these relationships may last a fleeting second. At traffic lights they can last a minute. They're mini-relationships. And because they are mini and because they are so frequent and so fast, we ignore the possibility that we are truly connected to each other in the human experience of driving.

Ready to go. Here we go. Just like a choir and a football team; we all have to move together. We all have to keep the same distance. We all have to watch out for one another. We're all dangers to one another. Whoops, there's a man doing something illegal, coming over to my lane and crossing the double white line. Yet, I must accommodate him. He's my brother.

There's the bus. What does he want to do, want to come into my lane? Go ahead. No, O.K., wait. Let me go by first. Then you come after me. I see him in my mirror. Still trying to do it. Two or three cars behind me, they haven't let him in. Why is everybody in the right lane trying to move over? Oh, it's because of this slow truck and the bus doesn't want to be behind. Alright, here we go. Now I can go ahead because this slowpoke ahead of me finally went to the right.

Now, there, see, I'm exposing the relationship. See, he's gone. I can't even see him anymore. I had a two or three second relationship with him. I called him a slowpoke. I insulted him. I wouldn't want him to hear me. So there's a rule to strive for: Only think pure thoughts, that is, thoughts that you wouldn't mind the person hearing when sitting right next to you. You don't want to have selfish thoughts do you? At least you don't want to approve of them and end up with them! Think thoughts that don't merely serve ourselves put also serve others at the same time. And, therefore, if he were sitting next to me I wouldn't call him out loud, "You slowpoke," because that would be an insult and I don't insult people to their face because I don't want to hurt them. So I shouldn't let myself do it when they can't hear, because ultimately it hurts both of us.

Types of Traffic Relationships

Well, these are self-realizations about what kind of people we are -- at what level we have our relationships. Mini-relationships in traffic are so short and there are so many of them. Makes it easier to study them. Like experiments with fruit flies. They multiply, you know, several generations in a day so that you can test out various things on generational effects. That's how it is. The frequency -- every trip is a generation. And within that trip there' s a lifetime of revenge in half an hour with a multiplicity of personal and intimate mini-relationships. If they could all hear each other, it would be very intimate. So, just because they're strangers and they can't hear doesn't mean it's not intimate.

Wow, this is really exciting. What a revelation, America! Every day millions of us are encountering each other on the road and having mini-relationships of a few seconds in which we manage to engage in both insults and ridicule, as well as in niceties and dance-like coordination. Maybe the trend to have car phones will someday lead to posting phone numbers on license plates so we can call and talk to the person in front of us who just cut us off. Would we make the contact personal or would we just respond with anger and the love of dominion? I wonder. Would we connect on some personal level and try to understand each other, and build appreciation and respect for each other? Hiding inside our cars with darkened windows allows for de-individuation: hiding behind a mask and behaving anyway we please, thinking it doesn't matter and that there are no consequences.

Self-witnessing builds self-awareness and self-realization of the fact that we're a community of drivers affected by the same forces. When we're in the grips of negative emotions, we're being irrational, unhealthy, stressful. Self-realization brings the insight that the negative bias is your own, personally generated syndrome rather than something external caused by others. Upholding a negative bias in traffic is a kind of an insanity, you know. It's a kind of a temporary insanity.

Drivers Anonymous

Driving ought to be a positive dynamic. Not only because it eliminates the negative dynamic, which is a good consequence, but also because it offers positive opportunities for personal growth. I would expect traffic psychology growth groups to spring up in the future. You know, neighborhood community groups getting together in people's homes once a week and discussing their driving problems. Sharing stories, both ignoble and noble. Hey, group, I've got a confession to make. Today I yelled at my passenger. Or, Well, tonight I want to report on my fourth week in my driving personality make-over plan. That sort of thing. People counseling each other on their way to becoming practicing traffic psychologists. Pretty soon all new licensed drivers will start out their traffic careers as newbie traffic psychologists. Then they'd get recognized as their accomplishments grew. A green ribbon when they become polite drivers. A blue ribbon when they become facilitative drivers. A black ribbon when they become Gandhi at the wheel.

Watch out! That stupid idiot! That old man has been haunting me since Oakway. Here he shows up again at the bottom of the hill, haunting me. He was just -- I was stopped for the light. It's full traffic. And as I look in the rear view mirror, I see him approaching and he is looking at his companion talking, talking, talking, and he's approaching closer and closer. Of course, he wasn't looking. So I had to literally scramble out of his way. Finally he looks and he puts the brakes on. Can't stand him. He has to show up behind me again. Just my luck. Let me get away from here.

Hey, old lady, get off my back, okay? Just keep your distance. Nah, she won't. She just has to drive inches from my bumper. I can't even see her front lights in my rear view mirror. Got to get out of here. She just won't do anything about it. I hate traffic today. Why is that? People are just coming too close. This is the numero uno problemo for traffic psychology: maintain space. You're not allowed to invade somebody's space. Obviously I'm going to be late. Incredible the traffic today, incredible. Lord, help me keep my cool.

I can't believe this old lady. Now, she's in back of me again. I can hardly see her face. She just yawns and acts like she's going to wake up from sleeping while her car is moving inexorably closer to mine. Now she's getting closer. Stay away, lady! She's sort of driving very relaxed and nonchalantly. She worries me. She's got white hair. She looks like she's about 80 years old. Oh, I've never seen traffic this heavy and at this time. It's twice as heavy as it should be. It's like both directions are the same. Usually the other direction is heavy like this. And I can scrape by here. But not today.

Good. Somebody else got in between her and me now. Is she going to be better? Neighbors are bound to each other in gridlock traffic. You're stuck with a person longer. So the community is even more important. Start. Stop. Start. Fast. Slow down. Stop. Start. Fast. Slow down. Start.

Danger Zones That Suck Cars In

Notice what happens. As soon as I maintain the proper following distance, another car quickly gets sucked into that space. It's how the accordion effect starts. Like just now I left three car lengths in front of the car ahead of me. Our convoy is in the leftmost lane of the freeway and we're traveling at 50, so I really should have 5 car lengths instead of 3. But I can't do it. They won't cooperate. As soon as I leave between 2 and 3 car lengths, a car from the convoy traveling in the right lane gets sucked into the space ahead of me. Just like that. Swooshh. Of course, the driver doesn't have time for signaling.

So that's a danger zone. It's sad to say, but it's come down to this -- if you leave proper following distance, the other motorists will create a whirlwind danger zone around you as they bolt into the available space. What can I do? The law of traffic, we've got to respect the law of traffic. We've got to accept it. We've got to, instead, deal with the social consequences, like being late, rather than twist the laws of driving, which is not possible, not safe, irrational and evil.

I guess I don't have all the answers now. What's important about self-witnessing is that it provides spontaneous and, therefore, real, authentic thoughts and rationales. Otherwise none of these issues or few of these issues would come up, even if I was doing experimental research. Oh, boy, isn't that nice? Speed it up now. I'm going 55 again. So the whole thing lasted less than five minutes. It seemed much longer. Gotta watch these delusions. Be objective and accurate. Five minutes is not much longer. It's five minutes. Period.

I really lost my cool back there with the old man and old lady who were following me too close. How can I let myself use such awful terms? Here I thought I was a reformed driver. Yeah, yeah. Sure. A reformed driver who denigrates senior citizens. How can I stoop so low? I've got no excuse. I caught myself. And it's all on record now. No hiding it. The whole world's gonna know now. I do feel sorry for aggressing against those two individuals. I'm the idiot and the fool. O.K., that's going too far. Just stop thinking in such negative terms. We're all in this together. So they made a mistake. They don't deserve to be called names and treated in a denigrating manner. And I don't deserve to be called an idiot either. So stop it. I said stop it.

Territoriality is an issue, isn't it? So here we are, sticking together as a cohort in the left lane. Everything is solid in both directions. And the tendency is close ranks so you don't allow anybody in. It's so tempting. I say to myself, that's orderly. That's just. You stay where you are, I stay where I am. See? The people who are already where they want to be can say that. But is it just? It's that kind of territoriality equitable, an equitable way of sharing public space? I doubt it.

That slowpoke is messing everything up for everybody. So I have to get around him. How does he dare move in the left lane so slowly, blocking the entire cohort? Of course, the people who were trying to get in here on the side street are able to merge, and they don't have to wait as long as they would ordinarily. So for them it's okay. But for everyone behind me it's not okay. So there's always a competition on the road, isn't there? We have to live with this competition in a fair way. We can't let our natural selves simply dictate. We must think of this spiritually and morally.

Car Dreams in the Left Lane

I have to maintain my distance from this car in front. But this guy behind me is following me so close. He doesn't like me to leave much space ahead of me. He thinks I'm a threat to the integrity of the convoy. Maybe. Maybe I'm making all of this up. Maybe he's just not paying attention. Maybe he can't see that well and is mis-perceiving the distance. Or maybe he's trying to tell me something. Don't be mad at me, sir. After all, I have to drive according to my own capacities. What if the car ahead of me stops and I can't stop and I hit him? I can just hear him mutter at me, "Oh, what's the matter with you. Get off the road if you can't drive like everybody else." Oh how cruel. That hurts me. No, sir, no, sir. Please don't think that. I mean, it's my right, isn't it, just as much as yours to be here on the road?

Hey what am I doing anyway. Making up what he thinks? That's a kind of daydream fantasy. I wonder if many people have them. Probably. Something for traffic psychology to find out. Surely they're important. People will be able to discover this kind of thing in traffic psychology growth groups. I suppose people will come up with procedures about how these self-help groups could operate. Twelve step programs normally have credos and procedures, although I don't know how much of this is necessary with traffic problems. A thing that impresses me is that they all start with the acknowledgment that we are powerless to change our addictions by ourselves and therefore we need to appeal to a power higher than ourselves. That's a key issue for driving addicts who are committed to being bad to others. I was shocked when someone I was talking to about driving stories said that people want to be jerks on the road. They don't want to give that up. It makes them feel good.

That's really shocking to hear. Of course, it's not really surprising from what I already know. It's a sign of addiction that you don't want to change, that you oppose the idea of change, that you're willing to pull the wool over your eyes and pretend that you enjoy being bad, that you enjoy creating a little hell in your mind, that it feels good to retaliate and punish and denigrate and threaten. But I told him that this is a delusion, that hell cannot be enjoyed but only suffered. I told him how deeply I'm moved with gratitude when someone does a driving nicety to me. And how great I feel when I'm being nice to another driver. I told him it's like building community and carrying on good relationships.

Ooh, ooh, ooh. I'm braking hard so I won't hit the car in front of me. I hope the man behind me is being careful about me. It's so painful. Stop, stop. Go, stop. Go. And it's so close. We're all a few inches, a few feet, from one another. That truck's lights are on. So my hand goes to my lights to check if mine are on. Automatic response. How neighbors in cohorts affect each other. Oh, my God. I didn't see him. Oh. That was close, switching lanes. Now that one wants to switch into my lane. Wait a little more, mister. Well, it's too late. He's got his front end over the line. You just wouldn't wait. Now you're holding up all your lane. Well, you should have thought of it before. So you don't hold up the lanes. Your fault! Your fault! Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah. Eat your ukulele. Well, go already. Go. Go. Hurry now.

Oh, I'm such a whiner. I hear myself whine. What's the matter with me? Here I go. I whine again. Was that a whine? Yeah, that's a whine. Diane says to me, "When do you do your charity? You can do it when you drive." That's a good point. I've got to practice charity every day and traffic is a good place to do it. That will raise my low self-esteem. We're all overly critical of ourselves and of others. And we're intolerant. Now, isn't that the symptom for suffering: low self-esteem and being defensive? So that's another angle that people need to explore in those traffic psychology growth groups. How to make yourself happier as a driver.

The Law of Least Effort in Driving

So now there's this person in front of me and he keeps a bigger distance than I think it should be, like maybe it's -- looks like 15 car lengths instead of five. It irritates me. Now, another car went in-between him and me. Now, this other car is riding his tail. These are the things we get into. These are the things we've got to get ourselves out of. And driving is a wonderful arena for self-improvement. Now, the guy behind him had enough so he went back into the left lane. And now he's passing him. Now I'm closing up. I'm keeping it about five car lengths which is where I want to stay, doing 45. He's doing 45 in a 45-mile zone in the right lane. He's got his rights.

He's still bothering me because he's not closing up the convoy distance. Come on, man. You see? You're putting pressure on yourself. Stop it. I said stop it! And there's nowhere to go. I can see down there. Nowhere to go. It's all filled up solid. So you see how intolerant you are? He's driving at speed limit or just above speed limit in a right lane and he's bothering me. That has got to stop. I'm not just willing to go on like this. No siree.

Another tyrannical characteristic of driving is the of law of least effort. You don't take your foot off the gas unless you have to. You don't brake until the last moment, in case you can avoid braking altogether. You don't signal. That's the law of least effort. And another one that's closely connected to it is the law of least interruption. That's it. The law of least interruption. So if I'm going at a certain speed and somebody cuts in, now I feel that I'm being interrupted in my own progress. Instead of seeing it as an accommodation (which is positive), we see it as an interruption (which is negative). Even if I'm being nice and let somebody in, I feel that I'm interrupting my progress. So the law of least interruption seems to be operating in driving and it governs our feelings, our orientation, our conclusions.

There's also a micro-micro level of self-witnessing, even deeper than sudden memory, that goes by too fast to be recorded verbally with language. It's more like a thought language through the eyes. Like switching lanes, what is he going to do? If I go right, he'll go left. Or, he's coming left. These are the general decisions. And then within these are the ones that are so fast they can't be described and yet you can become aware of them with practice, expertise, and perhaps training.

Driver's Self-Analysis

Look at that threatening and scary looking guy gaining on me. He wants to squeeze by ahead of me. I'm in the left lane. There's a car in the right lane just ahead of me. The gap is about three car lengths and he wants to squeeze through there. He's coming on fast in the right lane. He figures he'll be able to squeeze through. Now it's my move. I can't just keep speeding up and closing the gap ahead of me. He keeps on coming fast. If I close the gap he'll have to brake pretty hard to avoid hitting the car in the right lane.

I had a choice that split second moment. Should I slow down and let him go? I knew what he was doing. That's what I should have done. No, I just kept my speed. His space was cut off. Now I'm passing the car in the right lane. I 'm avoiding looking in my mirror to see what happened. I sort of see them in my mirror but I'm not looking at their faces. Naturally, they must be really ticked off. He's coming over to the left lane, he's behind me, he's passing the car in the right lane. Hey, look, he's getting back into the right lane. Oh, I see, he has to turn right. Well that's a relief. But I should have let him in. Yes I should've. Facilitative driving, remember? You're supposed to let other motorists do what they want. Make it easy for them to do what they want. Remove yourself as a barrier to what they want to do. Remove your car from their path. That sort of thing.

I regret not having let him in. Giving him that extra chance would've meant using my brakes. Am I scared to lift my foot off the gas pedal or what? I should have done it, especially since I knew that's what he was gunning for. So I'm bad. I repent, God. I'll change. What is this attachment I have to foiling the wishes of other drivers? I'm sure it's perverse. It's got to go. It's the love of ruling over others. We all have it. We're born with it. So now we have to work hard to get rid of it. Traffic psychology does that for me. It would do it for anyone who takes it seriously and honestly. But that's hard. Oh, boy oh boy, do I know it. Sometimes I feel that I wanna be bad. I enjoy being a jerk. I seem to be proud of it. Oh, boy, that's twisted.

Aha. She went over to the left, behind me. She thought I was just a slow poke. She got impatient with me. So she decides to switch lanes around the bend. Now she can see that the whole convoy is going slow. It wasn't just me, Lady. Aha! My line is picking up speed and hers is still slow. Look at that now she's way behind me. I doubt her line could catch up with me now. Imagine, she thought I was holding up the line. But now she's stuck behind in the other lane. Na-na-na-na. That will teach you. Oh, cut it out. She's probably very stressed by now and you shouldn't delight in her misfortune. Yuk, go away. Alright, alright, everybody cut it out. Quiet now. Give me back my peace and joy of driving. Look around, It's still a gorgeous day. Mmmm, how pleasant.

Driving can be a pleasurable, harmless experience. Traffic can give you hours of pleasant driving and hundreds of mini-relations that you can flash back and remember forever. If you wanted to. Just think how glorious driving is. I'm sitting here in air-conditioned comfort, talking into the tape recorder, relaxing, driving among all this traffic, getting to work, miles and miles away in just a few minutes. Oh, look what's happening, a big load. I've got to get over. Thank you for letting me in folks. Thank you. Smile. I'm now in the left lane and this big load with a cop car behind has been holding up the right lane. So that's why it's been so slow. Now I can understand. Ho, ho. This is the time they pick. What is it? It's a huge crane.

The Driver Behind Me Gets Upset

Okay. Now we're picking up speed towards Somers Avenue. Distances between cars is increasing. Good. I feel more comfortable this way. But for about a mile back there distances were less than one car length. And if I try to leave more than half a car distance, bingo, somebody else gets in there from the middle lane or the driver behind gets all upset. How do I know the driver behind me is getting upset? Of course, I may be projecting. But how can I ignore the clues he's giving me. Like when I came in back there, he tried to speed up to stop me from getting into his lane ahead of him. But I forced myself in anyway and I imagine he had to apply the brakes more than he wanted to. So I would call this an incident. We had an incident. I was trying to get in and he was trying to prevent me from getting in. And then he follows real close for a while. So what am I supposed to be, happy? I know he's ticked off at me. So now if increase following distance slightly, he's right behind me getting very close. Naturally I feel pressure as I'm thinking of his impatience and hostility.

I'm interpreting these things. If I objectively examine them, I would have to say that I don't know the probability of their accuracy except by the argument of reciprocity. I do it. He does it. We all do it to each other. We all force each other, coerce each other, compete with each other acting as if our moral feelings have been exiled for the duration of the trip. Since I'm familiar with the psychodynamics of the situation, I feel compelled to think that I'm interpreting the clues correctly. The pressure is real, not imagined. Or is it? Isn't it up to me to inure myself from such pressure, to toughen myself up so I don't get influenced by such pressure tactics?

I don't know. The spiritual danger in driving is to become habitually insensitive to others. Because even if you are a facilitative driver, still there's a remnant of indifference to another driver's plight. Like when we're looking for a space in the mall parking lot, driving around the lanes with a bunch of other cars. Sometimes I come later than someone but I'm closer. So I follow the rule according to the letter. Since I'm closer, I'm gonna take the space. Do I feel sorry for the other driver? True, we should follow the rules, but we must cultivate empathy and sensitivity. Yes, I should feel sorry for the other person.

No Cowboy Driving

When I left home Diane sent me off with her usual reminder: "No cowboys." meaning I should drive like I drive with her, instead of by myself, the way I want to drive, like a cowboy on his horse. Well, I've just been driving like a cowboy the past few minutes. This guy behind in a flatback truck was following me pretty close And I was acting like I want to get away from him. And he acted like he wants to stick with me. Now, he was disregarding the rules because he was crossing the double lines as he moved over to the right lane exit a little too soon. Notice that he had to put on his brakes, of course. On the other hand, I didn't cross the double lines and I only had to put on my brakes once.

Traffic Flow Psychology

A good exercise for the growth groups is to explain traffic flow questions. For example, you're driving in the left lane and passing the cars in the right lane. All of a sudden the left lane begins to slow down and now the right lane is going faster. Why does this happen? The explanation is this: if there is a slow moving vehicle in the right lane, the cars start moving over into the left lane. The left lane now runs out of space as new cars from the right lane fill it up. It slows down. Meanwhile the right lane gains more space as cars are leaving. The cars that are left can now go faster than the left lane. Of course, pretty soon they have to come up against the slow moving vehicle and they're stuck. If you try to cross to the left lane at this point, motorists will try to shut you out.

The same principle holds when either lane is blocked by cones during an accident or construction job. Orderly merging would be for the motorists in the blocked lane to drive all the way to the first cone, then let cars alternate between the two lanes. There is only one merging point. Unfortunately, drivers are untrained for this, so they panic and try to merge at whatever point seems good to them. This creates multiple merging points. It slows the free lane down to a crawl while it frees the blocked lane for some cars to pass everyone, then merge at the end. This is disorderly merging. It's more dangerous, creates more incidents, makes other drivers mad, and you end up with feelings of embarrassment, guilt, or unhealthy opportunism.

Road Dilemma--To Switch Lanes or Not

Here is another exercise for learning better cognitive driving skills. Suppose you're driving in the middle of a convoy, and it starts moving too fast, way above the speed limit, and you don't want to go that fast. You're thinking of moving over to the right lane but you notice that it's moving pretty slow, slower than you want to go. What should you do? Should you hold up the rest of the cohort by keeping your speed down, even if it's still faster than the legal limit. Or should you go over to the right lane, even though it's moving slowly?

ANSWER: You must not hold up the convoy by your action in the left lane because: A) You should not interfere with other people's freedom. They're not breaking the law in any way that's different from usual, and you're not an authorized deputy entrusted with making others keep the law. B) By slowing down, you are creating a dangerous dynamic in the back because of the way they respond to your slow down in the fast lane. People don't tolerate it. They pass you in an impaired mental state caused by intolerance and egotism. They rev their engines and give you the stink eye. They act offended. They come up close behind you, veer into the other lane, then veer back into your lane close to your bumper. They create a whirlwind of danger, speed and anger around your car. So don't try to slow them down but move over, let them pass, then resume your place.

Simulated Rage

I'm King of the Road. No one can catch me. The closest behind me, those two cars, they're trying to catch up. But nobody can, up the hill. I know how to just -- not to put the brakes on at the right time. There, I'm arriving, King of the Castle, King of the Road. It's me, me, me. Get out of my way, you pip-squeak. There, see what you made me do. Now, it's the yellow light, I have to stop and you creak you, you #X@!%, I'll tear you to pieces.

What's amazing is to think that these feelings can remain for hours. I experience them more as caricatures because I realize they're crazy. I feel them at the moment. But they're gone in a flash. I don't take myself seriously. I let them go. I don't create a legitimate context for their continued existence, so they vanish. They're vestigial feelings. But I remember when they lasted seconds and minutes. I took myself seriously. Very, very unpleasant. Very, very hellish. You could call these episodes Hellish Road Speech Acts. They're inherited tendencies we stamp in by acceptance that become habits. Very likely, the inherited impulse to be hostile is more easily stamped in because we observe it in others and model after them.

But we retain control. Each time we express rage or hatred and notice it, we have a fateful choice: either to go along with it -- reinforcing it further, or to question and disapprove of it -- weakening its hold on us. I'm doing 47. Look at that guy. He passed me by like a rush of wind. He cut in front of me real close. I suppose this is to express his hatred of the way I was driving. This is the role type I'm talking about, the role logic of domination, irrationality, insanity. We all have it. We all need to work to get rid of it. And when we do -- Shangri-La.

Psychodynamic Forces on the Road

Another interesting feature of traffic psychology is how you talk to yourself. Have you listened in lately on how you talk to yourself? And of course, how you talk to yourself is how others have talked to you and how you've heard others talk. So inner transcript analysis and self-witnessing are very important. The external approach of averaging or of correlating with external behavior and physiological measures, cannot reveal what perhaps is the major contribution to variance to be controlled, namely, the psychophysical dynamic forces. And only the self-witnessing method can provide access to that data for empirical analysis. Empirical analysis is a bridge between phenomenology and nomothetic objectivity.

Moral features: So we were waiting in line by the light, and I was number five. This car in the number three position, when the light turns green, decides to wait and let this other guy from the side road go first. And then he goes, and then I go and then the guy behind me goes. And that was it. But suppose the light had changed. Now, this particular light has a sensor so it doesn't change as long as cars keep running over the sensor. But if he had been even a second too slow -- you only have three seconds -- then it would've turned yellow. And then I and the car behind me would have been stuck. So should he have done that? That's a moral issue I think.

On the other hand, he helped somebody because he made it for certain that this guy from the side road was going to get to the light. Because it's one of those lights that stays green as long as you keep going over the bump. Okay. So, true, he made it more certain for the guy on the side road to go. But at the same time he made it less certain for me and the other behind me. Did he have the right to take that liberty with my chances of getting through the light? Is somebody waiting in line allowed to let somebody else in? Normally, in a post office or bank line, people get mad if you let others go ahead of you because that makes it longer for them. Right? There's a moral issue to be discussed in traffic psychology groups.

CARtoon 14-33
New Deal For Driver Ed
High school class receiving diplomas for completing a Driver Ed course. The female speaker in a police major's uniform at the podium is saying: "It's not enough to be good at driving. Now you've got to be good while driving." A male police officer standing next to her is shaking the hands of a line of students and handing them diplomas. All the students who already have a diploma and are walking away, have a saint's halo around their heads.

Multi-Tasking in Traffic

I'm driving and I have my earphones on, listening to the news I recorded earlier. Question for traffic psychology: Is it dangerous to do ancillary activities in cars -- operating the radio, tape recorders, CD players, cellular phones, computers. Getting involved in something that you're doing other than the driving can reduce driving safety, like you might do something a fraction of a second too late. Yes, I noticed that in my own case. I constantly have to watch out for distractions and counteract errors. In other words, there's a training phase that's needed to avoid becoming a safety hazard to yourself and others.

Drivers can't assume that they can do multi-tasking just because they're good drivers. Remember how many beginners, can't talk while they're driving? Or if they talk, as soon as there's heavy traffic or some incident occurs, they stop talking. But they learn. Same with listening to the radio, with singing, dictating. At first it distracts you from your driving performance so you need to stay alert until you've re-trained your automatic driving self.

I expect traffic psychologists will discover the special distraction problems for each type of side activity. Using the car phone often requires driving with one hand. Using a computer creates competitive stimulus demands on the same channel you need for driving -- your eyes. So there must be specific training for each type of multi-tasking activity that will be performed while driving.

It has to do with sensorimotor training. You should be able to drive equally with one hand, with both hands, with either the left hand or the right hand. And you should be able to change lanes with one hand. At the same time you should be able to turn on the indicator. In other words, all normal driving functions, you must be able to do with one hand, including handling the wheel with one hand, and honking or signaling.

Now here's an obstruction. So I have to go over to the left lane. I have to watch as I'm talking. You see, there's no problem. I look over my shoulder, I switch lanes. I've been well-trained for the use of one hand, which is my left hand, holding the microcasette tape recorder near my mouth in my right hand. Over the years I've learned to be very comfortable and competent using my left hand for driving. That leaves the right hand open for holding a tape recorder or using a computer.

Now, of course, the eyes, ha, ha. Now, for years I've trained myself to move my eyes rapidly while driving, so my eyes move in a triangle. From the rearview mirror front, side, left, right, rearview mirror front, side -- my eyes are in constant motion. Once in a while they rest I'm reading or watching something.

Okay. So that level of sensorimotor self-training needs to occur. Once you've got that kind of training, then you can start thinking of doing things like putting your hand on a keyboard or writing a note on a pad that's held securely on the seat, and so on. People have that practice to some extent with one hand because they eat with the one hand, drink, hold the telephone, and so on.

Oops, got to be careful here. Thank God for brake lights. It makes everything easier so that I can relax and still drive safely in heavy traffic, you know, on, off, on, off. Because it just jumps to the eye and then my foot is conditioned to the other person's brakes. It's just automatic, I don't have to worry about anything. It doesn't interrupt my relaxation, my concentration on other things. Just think all these feet go up and down, up and down, all pretty much at the same time. It's like a coordinated traffic dance.

Of course now it's much easier because we have the upper brake lights, three brake lights instead of two at two, and at different levels. So that gives me an extra little warning, an extra little instant for doing what I have to do without adrenaline pumping me all over the place and causing me to be in a state so that I can't do my job when I get there. I like drivers who use their brake lights to warn me ahead of time instead of the last second. Putting on the brakes can be considered as a signal to somebody else. We're objective when we consider how our actions as drivers affect other road users. This is because it's seeing yourself as others see you. As a driver you have to be aware of what that is so that you could make the right decisions and give the right signals. So, you have two responsibilities as a driver. Driving and giving signals. Driving appropriately and giving appropriate signals. And, of course, brake lights are not the only signal we give. Like right now the speed at which I approach and the context is just before an exit. These signal meaning which must be interpreted. I can't be an oblivious driver, driving for myself alone. We have to drive for others as well as for ourselves.

Wrangling With Yourself

There's a motorcyclist ahead of me and he looks so vulnerable. No helmet. Just a T-shirt, flying in the wind, among the cars here. Look at that. He goes from left to middle to left. He speeds up. What about motorcyclists and traffic psychology? There's a connection that must be made there, too. Look at that car, uggh. My pet peeve is car exhaust, dark fumes. I hate that when a truck or car does it. It's so bad. I'd vote for a system where we can call in and report such offensive cars on the road. If several independent callers confirm this car's condition, the owner gets a citation in the mail. We need to make it more expensive for motorists who disregard the health and safety of others.

Why is it that my line is going slower than the other line? I'm in the left lane and going slower than the right lane. Once I tried to switch over and I saw the bus and I switched right back. And that was a real dangerous maneuver for the person behind me. But this must be a strange phenomenon and illusion. Your line is always going slower than the next line. And if it's not, you're wondering about it: All right. Should I switch? I should have switched. Oh, it's too late. No, look, you've got a long way to go. I should switch. Etc.

Oh, it's just easier, just relax, just go. Now why am I in this lane? I'm just a wimp. I'm just a loser. Everybody is going faster on the right and here I am on the left going nowhere. Why don't I switch? Just stay here. Just don't worry about it. Oh, stop it you big bully! It's this kind of wrangling with the self that causes stress, adrenaline, frustration, aggression, and other unpleasant feelings.

I used to have a style of driving where I always went as fast as I could. After that, when I began to call myself a reformed driver, I never broke the speed limit, no matter what. This went on for several months. And, of course, I tried to drive in the right-hand lane whenever possible so as not to hold up others and incur their wrath. After some time I decided to go along with the flow of traffic. If there's space to close up with the next convoy, I do. I speed all the way until the next convoy stops me. I maintain proper following distance, if they'll let me. I tend to switch lanes less than before and my style is more moderate. Still, I've got to face the fact -- I regularly break speed limits. I often drive as if there are no speed limits and let the road condition determine how fast I should go. Many people think this is alright. I still have my doubts. I need to learn more traffic psychology.

Health & Driving Issues

My driving sleeves need washing. Makes me feel like a pro when I get into the car, put on my seatbelt and my driving sleeves. During the yearly check up, my skin doctor always congratulates me for protecting myself from the sun. They're a constant presence now, holding the wheel, putting on the sleeves. These are about five years old. Amazing how long they last. Diane simply cut the sleeves off of one of my discarded shirts and sewed an elastic band in to holds it on my upper arm. Sometimes parking attendants look at it when I hand over the money. I feel good wearing them.

I think this relates to medical aspects of traffic psychology: sun shades, driving sleeves, sun glasses, tinted windows, back rests, portable toilets, air conditioning, noise abatement, and other things. We need to encourage self-witnessing data from special groups, like the physically challenged, people returning from hospital stays, young children, senior citizens, and so on. Listen to my tires squealing. Oh, yeah, tires, I have to go buy tires this week. Why do my front tires get used up faster than my back tires?

My attribution process is all off wrong. Now, this man was following me real close and I said, he wants to make me reduce the distance between me and the car ahead of me. So it was annoying me. Finally the person ahead of me went to the right lane. So I speeded up, way ahead, trying to catch up with the cohort. But this man didn't' speed up. He just stayed behind. So, perhaps, all along that was not what was going on. I had -- I made a misattribution here. Well, this happens frequently so it is an important topic in traffic psychology. Because attributions about drivers cannot really be checked, it's best to adopt a certain policy towards them like they're always wrong or they're irrelevant. Instead, follow the principle of facilitative driving.


Sit up straight while you're driving. Your head could be against the headrest. Look in your rearview mirror. Look in your left side mirror. Look in your right side mirror. Don't move your head, only your eyes. And now you have a circle of four places to go to with your eyes: Alternate between them. Start front, go left. Move your eyes to the side middle left. Back to front. Rearview mirror. Back to front. Right mirror. Back to front. Left mirror. Back to front. Rearview mirror. Back to front. Keep this up for longer and longer periods. It will train your eyes to obtain visual information all around the car on a regular basis, thus avoiding impulsive disasters, such as suddenly changing lanes while there's a car in the blind spot, etc.

Another feature of this exercise is you keep your back straight and you hold your stomach in. See how long you can hold your stomach in. See how long you can remember to hold your stomach in. It's very difficult to remember for more than a few seconds. Then a minute or two goes by, then you remember again. Then ten minutes go by, then you remember again. It's very hard to keep it up. Well, it's a healthy thing to do. It's good for your posture. It's a healthy way of driving, of doing something while you're driving that's also healthy

 See our book Road Rage and Aggressive Driving

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Facts & Advice
Stories in the News



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