Who do you become when driving?

Written by: Avril Kidd
Category: Habits | Life Skills | Stress
It’s true many other drivers need to change. The problem is none of us can make them change. The only person we can change is ourselves.


Having had the privilege of travelling to various African countries this year, one of the biggest stressors for me has been my stress on the roads, to the point where I have to close my eyes for most of the journey to survive the trip! Thankfully I haven’t needed to drive myself.

In Tanzania, when roads are busy, drivers drive contra flow, so you find yourself driving headlong into oncoming traffic, even though you are on the correct side of the road, people hoot the instant the robot changes and scooters duck and dive between the vehicles. It makes South African roads look safe (a scary thought, I know). The tolerance for this bad driving seems to be much higher though than in South Africa, where road rage is common.

A colleague of mine has done a lot of work in developing better drivers by creating an app to assess your driving temperament as well as to help you in applying EQ in the car to change behaviour. As I believe this is something desperately needed, I have asked Keith to share his knowledge with you in this article.

Who do you become when driving?

Most of us drive every day, usually multiple times a day. Each trip is a completely different journey and we meet a cross-section of local drivers: the road is truly where society ‘meets’.

Unfortunately, it is also the place where most of us are at greatest risk of injury or death.

No one gets into their vehicle and thinks, “who will I kill today?” but world-wide around 4 100 people die and 50 000 are seriously injured each day in crashes. Most of us do not believe that we are part of the world’s road safety problem, as it is always ‘some-one else’s’ fault! Is it always the other guy? No. Sometimes, or perhaps more often than we know, it’s you or me.

Are you a low-, medium-, or high-risk driver?

It’s not that you are necessarily a high-risk driver who commits dangerous driving acts. You could be a low or medium risk driver who, at times, is triggered by another driver’s behaviour and, in that moment, your behaviour puts you, your passengers, or other drivers at greater risk.

But before we can change our risky behaviour we have to be aware and pay attention to our triggers, our feelings, our emotions and the meanings we give the events that trigger us. We need to ask ourselves: ‘Why do I react in the way I do? Why do I react in the same way each time that trigger event occurs? What is the meaning I give the trigger event?’.

It’s EQ 101! Sub-consciously we have given the trigger a meaning and we have habitualised our behaviour. We can choose to consciously change that meaning and behaviour, and that is when personal growth occurs.

To begin the Driving Change process, we need to be aware and pay attention to the feelings and emotions within our body, and to name them. Your body will tell you ‘something is not right’ before your mind does.

What is your trigger?

Often we will name our emotion anger, which is a great start but there is also often a deeper meaning. Mine is being disrespected. The fact that the other driver who ‘committed’ the trigger event doesn’t know I exist is irrelevant. It’s the powerful meaning I give to the trigger.

I am the only one who can interpret this and do something about it. I can only interpret it and do something about it when I am in the driver’s seat as this is where our driving reality meets the road. The driver’s seat is the classroom.

When we try and change our behaviour, e.g. with a spouse or boss, we often have to ‘set up’ the interaction event, prepare our speech and decide on our intent: it often feels false. With Driving Change you mostly drive alone and the road will send you your triggers, sooner rather than later. There is nothing false or set up, and you have multiple opportunities to practice becoming the driver you wish to become.

Who must change first?

It’s true many other drivers need to change. The problem is none of us can make them change. The only person we can change is ourselves. We cannot change from our sub-conscious mind. We have to make the sub-conscious conscious, and choose to change.

If you want feedback on how you drive currently, or whether you are changing successfully, ask your passengers, particularly your partner. Be brave. Listen, don’t defend or justify, and just take the feedback in.


  • If you get into the car angry, you will drive angry (or anxiously, fearfully, nervously, frustrated).
  • Walk around the vehicle and do an inspection while you breathe. This helps to ground your mind in the present.
  • ‘Listen’ to what your body is telling you, ask yourself why you feel the way you do and what do you want to change the feeling to.
  • When you are triggered, say to yourself, ‘that’s interesting’ and observe your behaviour. Shift from reacting to observing.
  • Expect the best and allow yourself not to judge when you get it wrong, shift to breathing and observing.
  • Choose personal change and master your driving emotion in four easy steps!


Unfortunately Keith is no longer with us but this article will remain as a dedication to him and his valuable work.


Wishing you safe driving!