Coaching you to safe driving for life

Are you being polite?

Four years ago I worked with the organising committee of the London 2012 Olympic Games training and assessing the drivers who would be driving the athletes and officials during the games. These drivers had all been assessed and selected before training started to have the right attitude to do this role. Most of them had many years experience on the roads, some had driven at previous games and all had one thing in common, experience on the road! They went through a morning of class room based training before going out on the roads putting training in to practice. When we first started the training there were some other road users who were less than happy about us being there, the belief being we were taking jobs from the taxis in London. We had some very aggressive behaviour shown towards us, cars cutting us up, shouting and swearing at us! We had special lanes only we could use which also annoyed people. As we got closer to the start of the games people's attitude changed, maybe fuelled by the media. The Taxis realised they wouldn't be paid for driving the athletes etc and that they would get more business from tourists coming to the games. People wanted photos taken with the cars. The thing about the change in attitude or awareness of the positve impact the games would have was that people started to be nice, they left room in the Olympic lanes, they smiled and waved, they let us pull out in traffic all much nicer! So what can we get from this not very scientific looks at drivers attitude? Well if we feel threaten either to our space or livelihood we react badly often aggressively and that threat perceived or real is influence by the media and other outside sources. As drivers we must be aware of this and some times Keep Calm and Carry on, rather than reacting angrily. So can we help others to feel less annoyed and angry around us? Well the obvious answer is yes! Just be polite, have a polite conversation with the other users of the road who are all entitled to be there just like us, the all make mistakes just like us, they all think they are right just like us! So what is a polite conversation on the road? When we are talking to people we use words, tone and body language to communicate what we want people to understand, sometimes people don't understand what we say and that's frustrating but we find another way to communicate our idea. I have a 7 month old daughter  she can use her body language and her smile to get what she wants but I don't always understand her, she gets frustrated and screams. I know I've done something wrong but often I have no idea, I could scream back but that would achieve nothing except more noise and frustration. How often do we see a conversation like that happen on the road, 2 road users screaming at each other neither understanding the other! So let's look at this polite conversation, our words in a car are our indicators, are we using them and we giving people enough  time to understand what we are saying? Or do we expect people to understand from one flash of the light? Have we checked people understand the signals before we change what we are doing? Our tone is the speed of the car, slowing the car down arriving at a junction or hazard allows us time and other road users time to understand what we are saying. And our road positioning is our body language often the most important tool in communication, leaving room for a car to pass through a gap or possible filling a position in the middle of the road to communicate whether you believe there's room for another road user to pass. To have a polite conversation we need to ensure we are understood give others room and time to process what we are saying and be willing allow there is mistakes. Think of it this way if you were about to walk into a shop and as you open the door an old frail person is coming towards you, would hold the door open wait for them to walk through smile and say good morning and the carry on with your journey. I would hope you would be saying yes that's what I would do. Next time you come across another road user think are you the kind of polite holding the door open person who ensures other people understand and are happy to wait while they make mistakes or are you like the misinformed drivers in London before the Olympics??

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