How to Train Car Drivers and Achieve World Peace

by Liz Jansen

train car driversI’ve been experimenting lately in a variety of traffic situations. Remarkably, I’m convinced there’s potential to train car drivers to make our roads safer.

Initial results are promising and the drivers don’t even know it’s happening.

Anyone who rides a motorcycle, including me, can tell tales of aggressive, distracted, and otherwise inconsiderate behavior that ratchets up our risk of a crash.

The solution is simple. Training car drivers is achieved through being a responsible and courteous rider. Demonstrating proficient riding skills, knowing and following the rules of the road, and maintaining awareness of your environment are minimum starting points for this training to work. So is being visible.

There’s no room for either aggressive or passive behavior. Those only escalate the responses you don’t want and increase your risk of injury.

Consider these examples:

  1. While riding on a two-lane road, with a lane of traffic in each direction, it’s correct to ride in the left tire track. When there’s an oncoming semi or similar behemoth, I temporarily shift to the right tire track. Although they don’t have as much maneuvering room, in most cases, the other driver shifts slightly to their right. You can see the gap between the vehicle and the center line widen. It’s called mirroring. Whether they do it because your movement catches their attention or they’re subconsciously following your lead, doesn’t matter. They’ve just increased your safety cushion.
  2. Riding in traffic and maintaining a safe following distance can be a challenge. Someone often wants to cut in between you and the vehicle in front of you. When that happens, I back off and recreate that space between the interloper and me. Consistently, other drivers notice. Again, it may be subconsciously, but they respond in kind. Invariably, the vehicle behind me is following at a safe distance, not right on my tail.
  3. Smiling, waving, or nodding in response to courteous behavior goes a long way in converting a driver who’s oblivious to the world around him, to one who drives more responsibly. Like when someone is about to move left into your lane, notices you approaching at the last moment, and waits for you to pass before executing her lane change. Or when you’re trying to merge into bumper-to-bumper traffic and someone lets you in. When the situation allows it, thank them in person. At a traffic light, I’ve even pulled up beside a stopped vehicle who had been maintaining a safe distance while following me and thanked him for his courtesy.

Pollyannaish? Perhaps, but it works. Psychologist B. F. Skinner came up with the concept for sustainably modifying behavior in the 1930’s, using positive reinforcement to strengthen the behaviors he wanted. It’s much more effective than cursing or flipping someone the bird.

Learning to train car drivers is just like attaining world peace. They’re both long-term projects, require consistent attention, and begin with me.

Peace out.

What have you found to be an effective way to train a car driver? Let us know in the comments.

Related Post: 12 Tips for Riders During Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month


photo credit: Free Grunge Textures – www.freestock.ca Peace Grunge Sign – Sepia via photopin (license)

Posted in Leadership, Life Lessons from Motorcycles Tagged with:
12 comments on “How to Train Car Drivers and Achieve World Peace
  1. Virginia Rego says:

    Love it, thanks Liz! These tips are useful for my bicycle commuting too 🙂

  2. Sarah says:

    Wonderful points to pursue, agree whole-heartedly!

    I know for a fact for myself that it is gratifying when the bikers acknowledge me when I indicate awareness and concern for them (when I’m in my car). I hedge to the side to allow them to come/go to the front, I make the eye contact and make the room, etc. And they wave in return when taking advantage of my act. I try to do the same when out riding, acknowledge the acts of the auto drivers, hoping that the same sense of gratification reinforces the consideration and behavior in the them around me.

    Just Tuesday, while being 2 up with my DH (Darling Husband), we had 2 separate events pop that probably put a spot on the seat for the 2 car drivers, the first, he didn’t even look before he started to jerk his car over in extremely close traffic (he immediately corrected when he saw us), and second, the fellow pulling out from the side street saw it was clear to the right, but there we were on the left, (about a block from home). In both those cases neither of us responded with anger or gestures, we both were watching for it and not surprised, and we just rode on, hoping the startlement would teach a little more awareness.

    One driver at a time… 🙂

  3. Sarah says:

    Since I began this wonderful adventure on bikes, I have come to realize just how much of an “unaware” driver I was, and since then I have become so much more sensitive to riders on the road.

    As a driver, some of my lessons came from believing I had been looking for traffic and still not seeing the rider, and scaring myself afterward, realizing that “I just didn’t see him”, “he came from nowhere”, when in reality, I just wasn’t looking. A “glance” does not constitute a “look”.

    Now I’m on both sides, and try to give grace where I can, when I can, on both sides.

    🙂

    • lizjansen says:

      Excellent points Sarah. Graduates of the motorcycle program often comment that it’s made them a better car driver. I guess that’s another way to train car drivers. Teach them how to ride a motorcycle!

  4. Bridget says:

    You’re right Liz, sometimes a little courteous behaviour goes a long way. Another experiment I like to observe is when stopping at a light in traffic. I find that when I stop close to the car in front of me, the car behind me does the same – stopping close to the back of my bike. If I leave anywhere between a half to a full car length between me and the car in front, the driver behind me does the same, giving a more comfortable open area. Try it and see!

  5. Chris says:

    Great tips, thank you!
    I wish that this was part of the curriculum at the various Rider Training Courses here in Canada.
    Another tip, is “visibility” i.e. wear a reflective safety vest over your gear. Some riders advocate riding with the high beam on and I think that tends to irritate oncoming traffic, especially if the said rider has plugged in a HID on a standard light [the reflector pattern of the “standard” scatters the HID]
    Ride safe!
    Chris

    • lizjansen says:

      Thanks Chris. it comes up in the courses I teach. 🙂 Your tips are well taken. Startling or irritating a driver is asking for trouble

      Liz

  6. Great post, Liz! As a new rider, I am very grateful for the patience demonstrated by car drivers in my area, when I sometimes fumble for the gears or stall at intersections.

    I sincerely believe that maintaining a calm attitude on the bike has a positive effect on everyone with whom we share the road. This approach on the bike has helped me release my tendency for road rage in the car! So yes, I agree teaching more people to ride motorcycles would help make the road more peaceful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

Subscribe to Blog!

Enter your email address to subscribe and receive new posts by email.