Self-awareness is a very important skill everywhere in life, but especially when learning to drive. Self-awareness is about stepping outside ourselves to see what we’re doing and saying and evaluate how that matches what we’re thinking and believing. Self-awareness can also work the other way around. We can look at what we’re thinking and believing and how that is affecting what we say and do. Other people can help us to do this too, by asking insightful questions, challenging our behaviour or by giving us the time and space to reflect.
I am often asking my students questions. They can be as simple as: “do you know what speed you’re going?”. Or more complex questions such as: “why did you choose to do that?”.
I ask these questions, in part, because it helps me to improve your driving and also to help me better anticipate how you will react in certain situations. I also ask these questions to help you become more self-aware. I draw your attention to certain behaviours and question why you make certain decisions. Many of the questions I ask are not about getting the correct answer but about helping my students develop an awareness of what they’re doing and why.
Sometimes, my students do things that I hope they will never do again. We all make mistakes and as a teacher I fully expect you to make mistakes in your lessons. After all, mistakes are how we learn! On occasion though, rather than making a mistake, my student will behave badly; for example, by deliberately choosing to jump a red light, break the speed limit, or get too close to another vehicle. They almost always have a reason or excuse for this but that is not the point.
Some behaviours are dangerous or inconsiderate and they need to be challenged. The person behaving badly needs to know what effect their actions have on others and that the behaviour will not be accepted in a real world environment (i.e. once you’ve passed your test). Thankfully, I seldom have to do this as most of my students are very considerate people.
In taking time to reflect, we’re actually considering the different options available to us and assessing if we want to change our future behaviour. Reflection itself won’t change us but it can be the catalyst for change by helping us identify the behaviours that we CAN change.
It’s next to impossible to reflect on an incident whilst driving, so if I want my students to reflect, I either find somewhere safe to stop, or I ask them to reflect at home. Some students are happy to reflect on situations in the car with me. Others prefer to do so at home on their own.
So, how does this relate to understanding risk? Well, since the driver is the active agent in driving scenarios, the best way to understand risk is to be aware of your own behaviour and to recognise where you’re prone to act without thinking or where your thinking and planning may be short-sighted or selfish.
One emotion that increases risk during driving is surprise. When unexpected things happen, there is a greater chance that things go wrong because you don’t have enough time to plan. To reduce the risk, you must reduce the element of surprise. This requires knowing yourself well enough to be able to predict or moderate your response to situations and to make decisions quickly enough to communicate that choice to those around you.
So, by increasing your self-awareness I am trying to increase your understanding of your own behaviour so that you can better communicate your actions to others and reduce the risks associated with that behaviour. Ultimately, this teaches you, not just how to pass the test, but how to be a better driver long after you pass.