I did a bad thing. How do I improve?

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ADC
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I did a bad thing. How do I improve?

Postby ADC » Tue Jul 10, 2018 2:20 pm

Long story warning. Ship to 'my questions' at the end for the short version!

I’m after a bit of advice, but first a brief background. I passed in 2004, 1 minor, Pass Plus, then IAM a few years later, and subsequently an HPC Young Driver Day and IAM track day. Long time ADUK lurker, but only just registered. Many many thousands of miles of driving later and I’ve still not been involved in any accidents/claims etc. I’m proud of my driving, really enjoy it, and take pleasure in making it as smooth and efficient as possible (whilst still ‘making progress’), and I’m particularly proud of my general situational awareness of what’s going on around me at all times. I’m an engineer with experience in vehicle dynamics, and I have a better sense than most of what the car is doing at all times (probably not most on this forum though!). Yeh yeh, that’s all great, but it counts for nothing without the right attitude on the road, and recently I’ve become a frustrated grumpy old git (I’m only 35) who gets very impatient with anyone who dares to show the slightest incompetence on the road. I say this from the perspective of a driver and a cyclist. Off the road I’m an easy going chilled sort of person, and always have been. Here’s a recent example that prompted me to post on here to get some advice. This isn’t a frequent occurrence by any means! But enough that I’ve noticed it, and want to improve.

A short way out of work there’s a 4 way junction with traffic lights, NSL in all directions. At the most there are usually about 2 or 3 cars at each light – it’s a quiet area. Long story short, I was intending on turning left. Stopped at a red light, no cars in front/behind, handbrake/neutral. Light goes green, and as the light holds you a little way from the junction threshold I started to move forwards whilst doing my checks around me at the same time. Glad I did, because a car sailed through from my RHS at 40mph+ rather close in front of me. Had I not looked I'd probably be dead. I blasted my horn to show my annoyance/presence, and they sailed on by apparently oblivious (or didn't hear it as they'd passed by already). Checked around again, and continued to my left (effectively following the car). Anyway, up to here it was fine, and then for the bit I’m not proud of…

They continued at c.40mph (NSL road) so I soon caught up with them. Followed at a sensible distance, but was expecting a wave or some sort of acknowledgement of what they’d just done. Nothing, never mind. We went around a corner onto a 1 mile NSL straight. (I was planning turning off to the right at the end of the straight). Oncoming cars. I close up to a distance ready for an overtake (still 40mph). A few seconds later and the oncoming cars now have a big enough gap to safely overtake, so I do so, within the speed limit. I ‘cut in’ earlier than I normally would (wouldn’t normally use that expression), and I checked my speed with the brakes (normally just acceleration sense) a little too hard. I think by this point I was now quite angry with their complete lack of acknowledgement that they had nearly hit me side on at 40mph. I think in hindsight I was subconsciously trying to slow them down so that I could communicate in some way with them (literally ask them what they were doing to distract them so much that they almost hit me). The overtake was unnecessary, but not dangerous. Braking in front of them was again unnecessary, was stupid, and whilst not dangerous, did not make the situation any better for anyone. Drove off at NSL. At the point I wanted to turn off right there were now oncoming cars, so I slowed gradually, and was sat waiting, indicators on, when the car pulled up behind me. Safe distance, no acknowledgement whatsoever. (I now think it wasn’t a lack of acknowledgement, but a desire to avoid any sort of conflict/communication/apologise, and I think it was this that made me so annoyed.) Whilst waiting in 1st gear, I was checking the rear view mirror to see the reaction of the driver, and if any cars were approaching from behind them. A gap appeared, I pulled onto the side road, and they carried on. End of story. They pootled away, and I drove away safely but angry, and annoyed all night. Both at them nearly killing me, and my own anger getting the better of me and making me drive like a t**t.
This bugged me all night, for several reasons, and prompted me to post on here for critique and advice. The story itself doesn't matter, it's how I reacted to the situation that does. I don't want to become 'one of them'!

My observations:

1. My initial awareness/reaction to a driver passing through a red light (apparently not just jumping it, but going through it (possibly a genuine mistake, they can be misleading)) was fine. My awareness stopped a collision, and I calmly continued afterwards (for about 30 seconds).

2. As I ‘followed’ the car I got angry. I think it was mainly from their complete lack of acknowledgement that they nearly hit me.

3. I think adrenaline may have contributed. It dawned on me that I had nearly been hit at 40mph side on, but only after a short while. I would likely be dead if that had happened. I should/could have realised this, and pulled over somehow for a few moments.

4. Their complete lack of acknowledgement of me; either almost hitting me, with me following them, or when they were sat stationary behind me avoiding eye contact. I think all of that is what annoyed me, and combined with adrenaline made me act in a stupid manner. One little wave from them would have calmed it all down. But ultimately, my actions should not have happened, regardless of their actions (or lack of).

5. Recently back from holiday involving a lot of driving. Probably quite tired. Only recently back to work, so all the blues associated with that too. Just makes the short fuse even shorter…

My questions:

1. Any tips on remaining calm when driving in this sort of situation? Difficult question, but tips would be appreciated. Something for me to think about whilst driving and improve my self-awareness. It's something new to me, I've always been quite calm. Obviously 'just stay calm' is the answer, but how do folk avoid getting frustrated by muppets around them? (In this case I'm a muppet too...)

2. I’ve done IAM, and still drive by those guidelines, but the test was a while ago now. I’ve tried to contact my local group up here in the far north, but each time I’ve tried I’ve not had a response, so I gave up. I want to do another course, but which one? My observation/awareness is ok, car control is ok, but emotions seem to be the biggest issue just now. (Would obviously like to improve everything, but need to prioritise.) Is there a driving course that tackles this emotional side of things? Perhaps just an observed drive or two to get me back into the right mindset.

3. I’ve been wanting to do another course anyway, focused mainly on car control. Possibly track focused, although would prefer it on the road. Any recommendations? I did the HPC young driver day years ago and it was good. I’ve done an IAM track day and it was good too – I’ll try to find another one of them nearby, but other suggestions would be welcome. Happy to spend a bit of money if there are good courses in NE England/Scotland.

Be gentle but honest! Thanks.

Triquet
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Re: I did a bad thing. How do I improve?

Postby Triquet » Tue Jul 10, 2018 2:47 pm

Blame the hot weather. I suspect that they never even noticed you. And don't forget that road driving on our congested roads is now a whole different ball game to track driving. Excellent car control and all the knowledge about car dynamics count for naught when faced with the average loons that infest our roads. When faced with this sort of thing, swallow hard and if you can, turn off and go a different route. Don't let the red mist get you. :swords:

Anyway, welcome to the group. There are many wiser souls who can give you useful advice. I'm a fairly average 75-year old and I've got to the stage of sit back, make space around me, and float along in my little bubble when I can. :car:

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akirk
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Re: I did a bad thing. How do I improve?

Postby akirk » Tue Jul 10, 2018 3:23 pm

Welcome to the forum - a good self-evaluation, which is 90% of the battle - being aware and wanting to not be that person - we have probably all been there...

I would suggest that your best bet is an initial session with a decent coach - and then take their advice on how to move forward - if you did the HPC YDD then you may be aware of Andy Morrison in Banbury / Clive Jones in Bridgend, but if you are up North then perhaps worth contacting Reg Local as he is known on Pistonheads etc. (http://www.reglocal.com/) though I don't know him, he does have a good reputation and is not horrendously expensive...

I think that would be better than just redoing IAM...

Alasdair

martine
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Re: I did a bad thing. How do I improve?

Postby martine » Tue Jul 10, 2018 3:25 pm

Yes I wondered the same: did they not notice you and not apologise (or even wave) or were they perhaps, distracted in their own world?

I think age helps...I'm 60 and definitely 'chilled' (for the most part).
Martin - Bristol IAM: IMI National Observer, Group Secretary, Masters (dist), DSA: ADI, Fleet, RoSPA (Dip)

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Horse
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Re: I did a bad thing. How do I improve?

Postby Horse » Tue Jul 10, 2018 3:48 pm

ADC wrote: 1. Any tips on remaining calm when driving in this sort of situation?


Try and be aware of your heartbeat, breathe in and out to a count of four in, four out.

1. It will steady you
2. While you're concentrating on that you won't be worrying about the muppet ;)
My own views. For better or worse :)

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jont-
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Re: I did a bad thing. How do I improve?

Postby jont- » Tue Jul 10, 2018 6:47 pm

ADC wrote:3. I’ve been wanting to do another course anyway, focused mainly on car control. Possibly track focused, although would prefer it on the road.

I'm not sure I understand this. If you're doing car control on the road, it's because something has gone wrong. I also see track driving as slightly different from understanding over-limit handling - most TDOs don't encourage too much playing around over the limit because it often results in people falling off and stoppages.

If you want to understand a bit more about vehicle dynamics and what happens when you run out of grip/talent, then both Car Limits (North Weald or Blyton Park) or Don Palmer (Bruntingthorpe) can help. Car limits is a bit more of a fixed format to the day, but both will be instructive. Completely the wrong time of year unless you've got a grudge against your current tyres though. It makes much more sense during the winter. :gear: :steering: :steering:

Understanding what the car is doing around the limit on track is useful because you're more likely to encounter those limits, but picking the right lines etc is another skill again.

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jcochrane
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Location: Surrey-Kent borders and wherever good driving roads are.

Re: I did a bad thing. How do I improve?

Postby jcochrane » Wed Jul 11, 2018 8:39 am

Welcome ADC

A very interesting post that does emphasise an important point about driving that is often overlooked. We spend much time and money on techniques, car control, developing concentration and so on and so on. But the most important element of a good drive is the driver. I often think this is an area that is only lightly touched upon when driver training is considered. All the best drivers I've experienced have the ability to be calm, detached from emotion and with fully focussed commitment to "the drive".

The question is how is this achieved and maintained. I expect those that have gained this mastery have their own formula.

Drivers displaying these qualities bring to mind a Zen like state of being. I have personally found that the every day practice of meditation is of immense
help going beyond just driving. It teaches many things including how to acknowledge and then let go of thoughts and emotion allowing the mind to return to a pure state that is focussed.

When emotion or external thoughts push upon the mind leading to the detriment of quality driving I find the following meditation techniques usually gets me back to the place I know I should be in. Another posted above breathing, deliberately focus the mind on a few slow controlled breaths, acknowledge the thought or emotion in a quiet detached way, look at them knowing there is nothing wrong in having those emotions, and then let go of them so they may drift away allowing the mind to refocus fresh on the drive.

On a more down to earth approach creating distance between your self and another car that is the source of emotional involvement also helps to detach and get back to driving your own drive rather than allowing another driver influence your drive.

ADC
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Re: I did a bad thing. How do I improve?

Postby ADC » Wed Jul 11, 2018 8:44 am

Morning all. Thanks for your comments, it's much appreciated. I found it quite good to write things down on here, sort of like a confession! It helped clarify things in my mind, and I felt better for it. I actually felt calmer than usual driving last night, and on the bike today. Until this morning when another HGV was stuck on the same hairpin corner on a country road, after ignoring the signs at each end of the road... But that's another story!

I've been thinking about fitting a dash cam. I wonder how (or even if) it would affect my driving. Has anyone else fitted one and noticed a change in driving styles after doing it? If it made me think twice before incidents like this happen, but didn't negatively influene anything else, then it might be a good investment.

jont, good comment, and I should probably clarify. Car control to me is track based, you're right. That's the only safe place to explore the limits. This isn't what I want to do just now. To me, car control also deals with things well below the limit/things that change the limit, like variable road surfaces (material, texture, camber, debris). I would like an instructor that can talk about these sort of things, and their impact on vehicle dynamics, in the context of road driving. Not exploring the limit, but discussing the impact of for example a localised pitted road surface on grip levels on individual wheels, and the impact on vehicle balance. Rather than just 'watch out for that road surface, better slow down'. I guess from an engineering background, I like to talk about the technicalities of things as well as the end result. Not quite clear in my mind as you can probably tell, but car control IMO can be partially taught on the road, but not limit handling.

Also thanks for the suggestions of driving instructors/courses. I'm already aware of most of them and their great reputations, but the reason I haven't used them is simply distance. North of Carlisle/Newcastle would be where I'm looking, but I know that rather limits my options!

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jcochrane
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Re: I did a bad thing. How do I improve?

Postby jcochrane » Wed Jul 11, 2018 8:54 am

I do have a dash cam. Not my choice but a present from the wife so I have to fit it. Reluctantly I did have to admit it provided clinching evidence in an accident when someone reversed into my car.

When I first fitted it I completely forgot it was there almost immediately so you may find, as I did, that the fitting of a dash cam had no effect on my driving.

ADC
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Re: I did a bad thing. How do I improve?

Postby ADC » Wed Jul 11, 2018 8:55 am

jcochrane wrote:
All the best drivers I've experienced have the ability to be calm, detached from emotion and with fully focussed commitment to "the drive".


Thanks for your post. I've got realatively little experience of driving tuition compared to most on here I imagine, but emotional states when driving have never once been mentioned.

In high stress situations I'm calm and detatched, don't get emotional, and just do what needs to be done. This is what I'm like driving too, but occasionally it all goes wrong. I think because I don't normally need relaxation/focusing techniques, that I don't really know what to do when I do need them!

Your suggestion of making space between me and the cause of the issue is a good one. If someone is tailgaiting me, I'll let them go past to remove that hazard from my bubble. I need to find a way to remember to do that all the time in situations like this, rather than sometimes letting the fuse burn.

I like this, thanks. Even the way you've written it sounds calm!

jcochrane wrote:...deliberately focus the mind on a few slow controlled breaths, acknowledge the thought or emotion in a quiet detached way, look at them knowing there is nothing wrong in having those emotions, and then let go of them so they may drift away allowing the mind to refocus fresh on the drive.


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