Chapter 9
DRIVER ATTITUDE AND BEHAVIOR

Human beings are all blessed with unique personalities that help to dictate actions in life. Behaviors are a function of decision-making...... decisions that can often have devastating results. Driving a motor vehicle is neither a game nor a recreational activity.....it is an action that can affect many lives if done incorrectly or without the proper attitude. Don't get in your vehicle unless you are prepared to drive....and prepared to drive safely!

Attitude

A. Overview - Stress, emotions and fatigue will always affect your ability to drive. As a motor vehicle operator you need to possess an attitude suited for the safe operation of the motor vehicle when behind the wheel, and you should not let other circumstances distract your attention. You should be aware that environmental factors, in addition to attitude, change your driving habits. To be a conscientious driver, you need to be a defensive driver. You also need to have a positive attitude toward law enforcement, as that can only benefit you as a driver. As you drive, you need to anticipate potential traffic hazards, select prudent traffic routes, and be aware of the dangers of night driving versus day driving (driving during daytime hours is typically much safer and less dangerous than driving at night). Your attitude and behavior as a driver can also be adversely affected by a lack of knowledge regarding when to merge or yield to other drivers. Keep in mind that driving is a privilege that has been extended to you by the State upon meeting prescribed criteria. There must be an understanding that there is no right to drive and that license holders are merely exercising a privilege granted to them. As a conscientious driver, you should make every attempt to keep up to date on changes to Georgia driving laws, new construction, potential road hazards, etc., and always try to keep a positive attitude when behind the wheel.

B. "Like a Loaded Gun" - A motor vehicle weighs many thousands of pounds, and if driven carelessly, it can lead to tragedy. People are lectured about gun safety and made aware of the associated dangers. But a motor vehicle, a simple thing that transports you daily, is far more dangerous than a gun. Abuse of a loaded gun often results in a scary reminder regarding gun safety without injury to anyone. However, abuse of a vehicle will undoubtedly result in damage or injury at some point. A drunk most probably wouldn't be able to aim the gun, yet would be able to start a motor vehicle. Abuse of a vehicle will almost always lead to harmful results. You must be aware of the tremendous responsibility involved with operating your vehicle and consider it the same as a dangerous weapon.

Behavior

A. Your attitude and behavior as a defensive driver should at all times be consistent with actions necessary to be safe on the road. The following elements are vital to safe driving:

1. General Knowledge - You should be aware of the benefits of traffic safety programs as well as penalties for negligent driving. Benefits derived from periodic participation in traffic safety programs should not be forgotten, as yearly reminders of techniques to be followed are important. Penalties for negligent driving can range from simple traffic tickets to license suspensions and fatal traffic accidents.

2. Personal Goals - Your main objectives while driving should be to prevent accidents and to drive as safely as possible. A concern for others and a general road awareness are also vital.

3. Time Management - You should allow for sufficient drive time during long road trips and expect unforeseen problems. After potential trouble or road hazards are recognized, you should then allocate appropriate additional driving time, if needed. Hurriedness and stress due to poor time management are major contributors to accidents. Not leaving yourself ample travel time increases your stress and detracts from the ability to operate a vehicle safely. Hurriedness while behind the wheel will cause you to take unneeded chances, speed, and become a road hazard. Avoid driving while under severe duress, as a wandering mind cannot focus on the tribulations of the road.

Additionally, you should always observe maximum speed laws on highways and freeways and be aware of a concept called the basic speed law as it applies to city driving. The basic speed law states that you should never drive at a speed that is faster than is safe, and should neither impede nor block the flow of traffic. Be aware that "prima facie" speed limits apply when no visible or noticeable posts are around. Despite lack of time due to any number of circumstances, basic traffic laws must always be followed.

4. Anticipation - In all aspects of driving, you must anticipate sudden changes, possible emergencies, and high risk areas. Adjustments should be made to driving without carelessness behind the wheel. High risk areas to drive around might include schools, playgrounds, parks, hospitals, housing communities, businesses and municipal centers. Also be wary of children at play and stray animals. Various types of potential vehicular emergencies should also be considered, and corrective measures visualized. A cushion of safety should also be allowed, with proper vehicle spacing, anticipation of road hazards, and avoidance of known congested areas. Be aware of alternate exits in case of an unexpected change or emergency situation.

5. Preparation - You must be prepared at all times for vehicle trouble. Your vehicle should be properly equipped with road flares, a flash light, a fire extinguisher, fuses, paper and pencil, change for a telephone call, a spare tire, extra oil, and in case of a collision, a camera to document the scene. Preparation is often the only assistance you will ever need.

6. Awareness of Traffic Conditions - You must be aware of traffic conditions on chosen roadways and need to make intelligent choices about where you choose to drive. Decisions to drive on side streets versus through streets, one-way versus two-way streets, or certain unsafe roads in general can lead to or prevent traffic accidents. A safe driver will have a general awareness of which roadways are the safest to travel upon, and will always make decisions with that knowledge in mind.

7. Body and Head Positioning While Steering - You need to be properly positioned in the driver seat (sitting up straight with both hands on the steering wheel), with clear visibility over the steering wheel. The roadway must be visible without obstruction, and this relies on the position of your head and body in the vehicle. You must be buckled in the driver's seat with your eyes able to focus on all aspects of the road ahead.

Emotions, Stress, and Fatigue

Stress caused by time constraints often result in traffic collisions, as do risky maneuvers taken to "make up" for lost time. Your actions behind the wheel are usually consistent with your behavior in daily life, outside the vehicle. (An angry person will often drive in an aggressive manner, while someone who is rested and calm will normally drive consistent with those feelings.)

A. Emotional and Physical Factors - A contributing factor to accidents or poor driving in general are the emotions of a driver. Emotions we contend with have a direct impact on the way in which we operate a vehicle. The following are emotional and physical factors that affect driving and the suggested ways to cope with each of them. Addressing each of these before they manifest on the road will help prevent accidents.

1. Anger - The angry driver is the unsafe driver. Anger causes one to take chances, speed, and drive without control. Anger needs to be contained prior to driving, with an understanding that total focus is imperative behind the wheel. A level head is vital to driving.

2. Sleepiness - It is essential to get adequate sleep and recognize signs of drowsiness before operating a motor vehicle. It is advisable to pull off the road and get needed rest prior to attempting to drive. When the body is tired, you are less alert, and your chances of a crash are heightened, especially when driving late at night. If you are tired, the only cure is to remove yourself and your vehicle from the road and get the much needed rest. When you drive while tired, you are a danger to yourself and all others on the road.

SUBJECT FOR THOUGHT...WHAT DO YOU THINK?

DMV technicians have the ability to refer a driver to re-testing for the lack of necessary motor skills, driving knowledge or vision to safely operate a motor vehicle. If you are referred for review, you may be given a driver test and /or asked to have a doctor assess and evaluate your medical condition. Roughly half of those evaluated had their driving privileges limited due to conditions such as loss of consciousness, Alzheimer's, inadequate physical skills or simple lack of knowledge. As has been widely reported, America's population is aging, placing more and more seniors on our roads.

Should we do away with mail or online renewals of driver's licenses? Do our skills erode as we age? Should the DMV have the ability to limit our privileges based strictly on a one-time mental lapse or a bad period of driving, or are they saving lives in the process? What do you think?

B. Recognition of Emotional / Physical Factors - Fighting fatigue while behind the wheel is never advisable. Driving while irritated, upset or shaken will substantially alter your judgment when behind the wheel. The angry driver is the aggressive offensive driver, and as a result the dangerous driver. Stressful conditions involving personal or business life will affect safe driving and should be recognized as negative influences on driving habits. You should evaluate your state of mind before attempting the operation of a motor vehicle and avoid driving when heightened stress, anger, emotions or fatigue are realized. When emotions are exaggerated or heightened, limiting driving activities can help decrease potential collisions and injuries.

C. Effects - The safe operation of a motor vehicle requires you to be focused while behind the wheel, uncluttered by thoughts of aggravation and distress. The driver with a wandering mind caused by any one of the aforementioned effects has a decreased awareness of the road, a slower reaction time, and an overall lack of safe driving habits. This driver is more apt to make unsafe lane changes, speed, and take chances on the road. The ability to anticipate and determine upcoming hazards and conditions is also adversely affected.

D. Collision Potential - It is statistically proven that the emotionally distressed or fatigued driver is more apt to be involved in a traffic collision than is someone who is rested and clear-headed. A tired or disturbed driver or one with a cluttered mind has a decreased ability to avoid an automobile collision. Keep distractions within the vehicle to a minimum (i.e., children, pets, car phones, etc.), and never drive when drowsy or tired. Remember to concentrate on the road, not on other matters.

E. Drivers' Attitude Towards State Driving Laws - Motor vehicle operators often look upon traffic laws with disdain. People stress the negative aspects of laws rather than the positive. Traffic laws are in place to save lives, thus they are for our benefit. Without laws, anarchy would reign supreme, and driving would be the least of our troubles. You may have wondered why the police stopped you instead of someone else who may have also violated the same laws as you. It's simple - the officer had to choose someone. In a way, it is like fishing - with so many fish in the sea, only a few can ever be caught at a given time. The presence of law enforcement, however, does help to deter drivers from traffic violations. Drivers, on average, violate traffic laws over 400 times before they are actually cited. The occasional citation they do receive, in addition to their participation in a traffic safety program, usually reminds the driver that safer driving habits are needed.

F. Road Rage - Aggressive driving behavior, particularly “Road Rage,” is a rapidly increasing problem affecting America's drivers. This behavior is sometimes provoked by the action of drivers when they tailgate, cut off others on the road, or use rude hand gestures. In most cases, however, road rage stems from the pre-existing attitude or mood of the drivers prior to getting behind the wheel. People often get into a vehicle when they are stressed or angry, and then they take out their problems on others with aggressive driving behavior. These drivers ignore the law, become discourteous, and have a basic disregard for others, often causing collisions or even fatalities. The preferred and suggested option for those dealing with a situation of road rage is to avoid the problem situation altogether and leave the scene as quickly as possible. Do not allow another's anger and ignorance affect you. The safest thing is to use your own good sense and protect your life. Many road rage killings result from guns and even vehicles being used against others on the road!

Aggressive Driving Law

In Georgia, aggressive driving is a crime. It is defined as operating a motor vehicle with the intent to annoy, harass, molest, intimidate, injure, or obstruct another person. Violations of certain traffic laws may result in this charge being brought against you. Traffic offenses that may result in an aggressive driving charge if intent is present include illegal passing, lane violations, tailgating, failure to signal, impeding the flow of traffic, merging into a lane occupied by a motorcycle, and reckless driving.

Common Motorist Irritants

Don't become a statistic...Don't let road rage get to you!

Traffic disputes where one driver assaults or kills another have risen 59% since 1990.
(Derived from AAA Foundation, Washington)

Hints to Avoid a Dangerous Situation

Some Significant Facts Regarding Road Rage

Officers Working for Public Safety

Officers of the law are there to protect and serve the public. Respecting their presence and heeding their commands can only make the roads safer for everyone. Below are various types of officers you may encounter:

A. Traffic Officer - Traffic officers are primarily in charge of traffic safety, with their primary focus on maintaining clear and safe roadways.

B. Motorcycle Officer - Motorcycle officers are similar to traffic officers, but operate on motorcycles.

C. Patrol Officer - Patrol officers are primarily patrolling and providing for public safety. Traffic matters are not their main focus.

D. Undercover Officer - Undercover officers are normally engaged in non-traffic activities, but can also write tickets and make arrests.

E. The Highway Patrol or State Police Patrol - These officers primarily patrols highways and freeways, with the majority of their citations written for excessive speed violations. Remember: Speed leads to collisions, which leads to fatalities.

F. Transit Police - Transit Police have full police powers to arrest and ticket, but normally patrol only certain areas where the rapid transit agencies they are affiliated with operate.

G. College Police - College/University police have full police powers to arrest and ticket, but normally stay within areas specific to their College or University campus.

H. Security Officers/ Private Patrols - Security officers or private patrols may only make a citizens' arrest. They are not typically affiliated with any police agency.

Pedestrian and Child Safety

When driving around schools:
- Watch for kids getting on and off school buses. Always stop for a school bus with flashing lights.
- Get to school five to ten minutes early and leave five minutes later to avoid the congestion of the parking lot.

Each year, more than 50,000 children are injured as pedestrians in the United States. Children are at the greatest risk at the beginning and end of the school day because that is when they are most likely to be on the streets. Most of the injuries are a result of children running out into the street from in between parked cars. Younger children are at the greatest risk, and some of the reasons include:

Parents should practice safety rules with their children and act as role models. Some tips to follow:

When behind the wheel, you should be extra cautious and drive slowly in all residential and school areas. Your children should not rely on drivers to follow the law...they must learn how to be safe pedestrians.