Mindfulness – and a contest!

Mindfulness - and a contest!“I would like to inform you about the tremendous positive impact you have had on my driving behaviour and that of my husband.  In addition, your influence has resulted in me becoming a better pedestrian.”

Thank you, Colleen, for those incredible words, which caused my heart to almost burst from my chest.  I could not have felt more esteemed and valued.

I also thank you for sharing your road safety suggestion.

Colleen gave her husband credit for the suggestion, even though she uses the tool daily in her work as a therapist.  She referred to it as “mindfulness” and explained:  “He believes it is more effective to be fully aware and present in the moment without judgment as opposed to thinking about where you need to be and how late you are.”

I have long identified inattention, i.e. a lack of constant, direct attention to the important driving task at hand, as being the cause of the vast majority of crashes.  I have pointed to the insane prevalence of rear-ender crashes, where drivers simply fail to notice that traffic has stopped, and crash into the back of the stopped traffic.

Mindfulness, if defined as a heightened or complete sense of awareness of what’s going on in the moment, would eliminate the inattention that causes crashes.

If we simply make mindfulness behind the wheel our goal, there should be no need to make a list of all the various activities or thoughts that can distract our attention, like putting on make-up, texting, having a cell phone discussion, thinking about work, eating, etc.

There is an endless list of things that can steal our attention, pulling it away from the road ahead just enough, at just the right moment, to cause a crash.

However unnecessary it should be to make that list, I think it can be helpful to consider the various distractors in the context of activities that everyone agrees, without question, must command our constant, focussed attention.

Consider your dentist having a hands-free telephone discussion while drilling away on your tooth.  How about a woodworker taking a bite out of a burger while pushing wood through a table saw.  Consider a chef slicing vegetables with a sharp knife while day dreaming.

If we recognize that distractors don’t fit with those activities, perhaps we will clue in that they don’t fit with driving either.

I came up with a fun way to visually illustrate the point.  My road safety campaign, One Crash is Too Many, is sponsoring a contest.  There are first and second prizes ($100.00 and $50.00) for three age categories of artists, plus a photograph category and a video category for a total of $750.00 in prizes.  Details can be found on the One Crash is Too Many website.

Basically, you use art, photography or video to show someone doing an activity you wouldn’t dream of doing without your constant, undivided attention, while engaging in some behaviour or exhibiting an impaired or other mental state that distracts attention.

Of course, please don’t actually put anyone in danger if you are using photography or video.  It’s a good cause, but not that good!

The deadline for submissions is November 9, 2016.  Winners will be announced on Wednesday evening, November 16, 2016, at the fifth annual Kelowna commemoration of the National Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.

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