Human Element v. Machine

By Andy Levesque

            Human v. Machine.  Who wins?  Well, that depends.  There are limitless risk factors and possibilities when driving a vehicle, we simply cannot know them all.   What we can do as human beings, is understand we are human.  We make mistakes, we correct them.  We educate ourselves, we become smarter. We minimize our importance, we become more at risk.  When coaching new drivers and experienced drivers, I always begin with a few sayings.  One of which is, “If you want to control the machine, you have to learn to control yourself.”  This saying reverts back to the last blog on Risk and Attitude.    

            Human Element – Each individual driver is unique.  Each driver has different aspects of life, education, personality, mental stability and focus, physical attributes and deficiencies, and so on.  We are human.  Truly understanding your physical skills, mental skills, and emotional skills to its truest sense is not easy to accomplish.  I am not trying to get philosophical, just trying to put it into perspective. More so, not everyone has the ability to drive a vehicle safely.  This is where self-identity and honesty is imperative.  Driving involves psycho-motor skills or divided attention skills and abilities.  That means it involves thought process and physical synchronization to accomplish a task. It is kind of like rubbing your belly in a circle with one hand and tapping the top of your head with the other. That can be natural ability or a developed skill. If you had to learn the skill, good for you!  I had to learn also.   

            The brain can only do one complex task at any given time. Even if that one task is driving.  One hundred percent of your attention must be given when driving.  One hundred percent!  Driving is not simplistic; it is complex.  Very complex.  Although it may seem easy to experienced drivers, it really is a complex task. Let us look at a simple and common issue with driving; distraction.

            Place yourself in the driver’s seat, alone in the car.  You should bring one hundred percent of your attention to drive the machine safely with all the complexities of such, to navigate the roadways, follow traffic laws and signs, search and identify overall, intermediate and close-up dangers, checking your mirrors every three to five seconds, accelerate, maintain and brake appropriately, and simply, keep it between the lines. This is only a small percentage of what you do to drive safely.

Now let us add some elements or distractions; your attitude, your mood, waking up late for work or school, trying to get there on time, the coffee you are drinking, the breakfast you are trying to eat, dealing with traffic (Oh we hate traffic!), finding a parking space, going through your work or school day, having to face your emotions and attitude, reversing the process until you arrive home.  Are we missing something?  Yes we are. The machine.

The Machine – With all the technology in our modern vehicles and makes our driving experience more pleasurable, easier and comfortable, it is still a machine.  Take away all the frills, toys, buttons and all the technology and we get to the machine.  The machine, a stationary object designed by humans in a parked area, is lifeless.  It cannot start when it wants, it cannot drive when it wants.  It is completely reliant on the human.  Humans turn the lock to get in.  We sit in the driver seat, insert then turn the key, then and only then, the machine comes to life. Now the machine is idle and not moving.  What makes the machine move?  We do. The human element.

The machine works within the laws of physics.  The machine, if not respected or fully understood by the driver, will remind the driver of the fundamental laws of physics (Sir Isaac Newton would be proud).  Human engineering completed and continuously improves the machine to our liking.  But deep down, it is still a machine.  Lifeless until interfered with by the human element.  So, it is the human that brings the machine to life and tries to operate the machine safely through the perils of humans until it is returned home.  It is not the machines fault (sometimes it is mechanically), but the human element that is the causation of failure.

Drive safe, drive smart! It’s all about your attitude!        

Speed Control

Advanced Driving Solutions

By Andy Levesque

            Do any of my readers speed?  If you said no, you are a perfectly tuned machine, borderline hypocritical (just kidding).  Every driver speeds at one point or another.  Is 26 faster than 25?  Is 36 more than 35?  Even as a technicality, any measurement over the posted speed sign is unlawful.  Period!  My students learn that immediately.  Speed matters when driving.  It matters because of the vehicle dynamics and handling.  It matters for steering input and braking properly. Speed matters. If the driver gives the control to the machine, the laws of physics will prevail and the vehicle will be out of the control of the driver.  Speed control is essential to safe driving.  Speed control assists in risk management.  It matters. Let’s talk about speed.

            Speed is a unit of measure.  It is a measurement of the distance traveled over a period of time.  Speed is measured in miles per hour (mph).  This measurement is grand.  Simply, how many miles can you drive in an hour’s time.  It is a long distance over a long period of time. Speed.

            I prefer to instruct a similar unit of measure with my students.  This measurement is Velocity.  Velocity is the measurement of time over distance, similar to Speed.  But instead of a long distance divided by a long period of time, it is measured in feet per second.  It is a shorter distanced divided by a shorter period of time (more realistic). 

            Realistically, people and vehicles move in feet per second.  For example, an average walking pedestrian velocity is +/- 4 to 5 feet per second.  A bicycle can sustain balance at about +/- 6 to 8 feet per second.  A vehicle traveling at 25 miles per hour is actually traveling at 36.65 feet per second.  Miles per hour = long distance over a long period of time.  Feet per second = short distance over a short amount of time.  So much can be shared about speed, perhaps another time on the dynamics of speed/velocity.

            Understand that the driver has to develop proper skills to control the vehicle whether or not the vehicle is a high speed or slow speed.  If you lose control of the vehicle, you are going too fast; too fast for road conditions, too fast for your abilities and too fast for the vehicle dynamics.  I ask my students, “How fast can you drive?”  You should see the deceitful smirks on their faces. I wait for the answer.  With silence, I repeat the question.  I often get high speeds thinking their ability and skill level can

match.  It is a trick question (I love those).  So what is the answer?  “You can only drive as fast as you are able to stop!”

Drive safe, drive smart! It’s all about your attitude!    

Risk and Attitude

By Andy Levesque

            Welcome back, I’ve missed you!  First, thank you for all the comments and concerns from the last blog.  I hope I have answered them in a timely manner.  Since I am a one person operation (for now) I may not have the ability to respond immediately.  Thank you for your understanding and patience.  I believe in quality not quantity!

            Let us start out with something insurance companies love, RiskRisk comes in many forms.  How to manage or mitigate risk when driving is a skill to develop and maintain.  As it relates to driving, I view risk having an association with Attitude.  Attitude is not how you are feeling.  That is a mood.  Attitude is a way of life.  If you think safe and act safe, than in most cases, you have the right attitude.  If you think recklessly and act recklessly, guess what?  You are probably a reckless person.  Attitude affects risk.  The better your attitude, the less risk you are willing to take.  Less risks in vehicle operation or making traffic decisions, the less likely you are to cause a crash. Proven a lower risk, insurance companies like that and your rates are lower.  If you have a high risk or bad attitude towards driving and safety like several moving violations or caused collisions, then insurance companies may not insure you or if they do, it will cost you dearly. 

            Each time I watch drivers, I can unscientifically match their driving behavior with their personality or overall attitude.  When you see drivers distracted, disobeying traffic laws, unsafe lane changes, excessive speeding (over and above what everyone else does), rapid acceleration, tailgating and so much more, it is easy to come to a reasonable conclusion about their attitude.  How a person drives reflects the personality or attitude of the driver.  They are easy to spot.  Sometimes it is more difficult to spot a safe driver than the careless or reckless drivers.  The better your attitude is, the better your behavior will be.  This lowers your risk. You can be bad, you can be mediocre or you can be great and everywhere in between.  It is your choice.  It is your attitude that will put you or someone else at risk.

            Perhaps the best way to reduce risk is not to put yourself in a risky situation.  All too often we find ourselves rushing to our next appointment, to work, to get the kids from one place to another, etc. Recognizing that you are distracted and adjusting your driving will reduce more risk than not changing at all. Plan ahead, look ahead, make decisions early, slow down!  Life is not an emergency with day to day tasks. If you are late, you are late.  It is better to be a few minutes late than to not get there at all.  If you find yourself in that situation, find a safe way out. The best way is to practice safe and responsible driving by no placing yourself in that position in the first place. There is always a way out and you have the ability to make that change.

            One rule of the many rules in life taught to me taught by my father was simple.  When it came to behavior he said, “See that guy over there?  Don’t be like him!”  Enough said.

Drive safe, drive smart! It’s all about your attitude!