10/30/2007

Using when/then thinking to avoid a collision

From W.I.N. Newsletters by Brain Willis
Reprinted with permission from Brain Willis, President of Winning Mind Training, Inc.

The following are examples of when/then thinking for safety on the road. The next time you have a close call in traffic (when), this kind of rehursed imagery might be what saves your bacon (then).

Driving is a daily activity for many of us and one we often take for granted. We must first understand that driving is a privilege and not a right. With that privilege comes many responsibilities and preparing for potential collisions or is one of those responsibilities. Notice I said "collision," not accident. Accident implies the event was not preventable and no one was at fault. While we are driving we must plan for events that may occur — conduct when/then thinking exercises and imagine how we would avoid a collision — that is, we can use imagery to prepare for eventualities in driving.

I will share a couple of stories to highlight the value of this. The first story comes from a conflict management course I was teaching. During a discussion on using imagery to prepare for conflict one of the participants related a story about driving. He lives in the country and travels on a two-lane highway with very narrow shoulders on a daily basis. There is one part of the highway where there is a thicket of trees close to the road. It is common for a deer to emerge from these trees and run across the road. Therefore, he did a risk assessment in his mind, imagined his options, selected the most desirable one and continually imagined what he would do when this happened to him. He then related that just a few months prior a deer had in fact run out in front of his car. He ended the story there. Of course the other people in the class were curious about the outcome so they ask him what he did.

He simply stated, "I hit the deer with my car."

When the laughter in the room subsided he went on to explain. He said that because of the angle and configuration of the ditches at the side of the road, there had been people killed when they swerved into the ditch. He went on to say that swerving to the left may very well result in a collision with an oncoming vehicle. He felt that the outcome of a head-on collision between two vehicles traveling 100 KPH (60 MPH) would not be favorable for either driver. Therefore, in his risk assessment he determined the most desirable course of action was to get on the brakes, bleed off as much speed as possible and hit the deer and that is exactly what he did. Although his car was damaged he was uninjured by the collision. 

The following is another great example shared by a newsletter reader:

"When I began working in law enforcement I used my imagination to put together 'what if' scenarios. Many obvious scenarios were played over and over in my mind about enforcement situations. Other scenarios involved the simple act of driving a vehicle. The one scenario I conditioned a response to was being 'T-boned' at an intersection. I decided a way of reducing the impact would be to either turn into the coming vehicle or away from it. That situation arose.

"Instead of being in my patrol vehicle it happened off duty with my family in a small car. I drove down a through street that had many side streets off of it. These side streets had yield or stop signs. As I entered one of these intersections I caught a movement to my left. A Ford F250 4x4 had blown the yield sign at a high rate of speed. My response was already programmed into my brain, scan for oncoming traffic-none, and turn into the F250-fast. We were hit on an angle just behind my door with all the energy bleeding off as a glancing blow. Neither my family nor myself were injured. I didn't have to imagine any more if that scenario would work."

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Brian Willis, President
Winning Mind Training Inc.
www.winningmindtraining.com
Warrior Spirit Books
www.warriorspiritbooks.com

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