Changing Bad Driving Habits.

Or, Speeding! A Race to the Poor House – Part II

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Last week, I recounted the story of my historically dodgy relationship with the nations speed limits and how my bad habit reached its ‘tipping-point’ following an incident on the Settle by-pass (A65) in June of 2010.

(Please click on the link in the heading above, or here, if you would like to see the original post).

This week, I would like to follow-up on that post by sharing with you how I managed to change my poor speeding habits. It is really a story of changing habits, or adopting new habits, which can be applied by anyone, to any given situation.

What is a Habit?

According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, ‘habit’ (noun) is a repeated action. It is something that you do often and regularly, sometimes without knowing that you are doing it.

For me (and for a lot of people), this aspect of not knowing what you are doing, when you are doing it was a key aspect of my bad driving habits, specifically: speeding.

Throughout most of my time behind a steering wheel, I know this may sound bad, but I wasn’t fully aware of what I was doing, while I was doing it!

However, if you think about it, how often have you undertaken a regular journey, arrived at your destination and thought to yourself “how did I get here?” (Especially if you have been driving for more than a few years).

Once you become an experienced driver, the act of driving, particularly on familiar routes, gets done on autopilot. It is your subconscious brain which is in charge, while your conscious brain focuses on other things.

In my case, while out delivering, my conscious brain would be thinking about the day ahead, trying to pre-empt potential problems, or it may be thinking about plans for the weekend ahead etc. It wouldn’t be thinking about driving and was barely aware of whatever the current speed limit happened to be!

When coupled with the time pressure that you put upon yourself to get the job done as quickly as possible, so that you can either move on to the next job, or just go home, it is hardly surprising that habitually I would find myself travelling at speeds in excess of the current speed limit.



This is definitely not a good situation to be in. Not only is it dangerous (to yourself and others), it is an extremely unprofitable way to drive.

Even if you don’t have an accident, or get into trouble with the Police, due to excess speed, the fact remains that when speeding you are travelling faster, which will inevitably lead to higher fuel consumption and increased wear and tear on your vehicle. All of which will find its way to your bottom line.

If as a professional driver, the last thing you need is for your cost lines to get inflated because that will have a direct adverse impact on your profits and therefore your take-home pay.

This adverse affect is compounded dramatically once you start to factor in penalty points, fines and accidents and the knock-on effect that all this has on your courier insurance premiums.

So, with all this pressure and 27 years of bad driving habits behind me, how did I change my ways to go from being a speed demon to a road angel?

My ‘Why’

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In anything we do, in order to know how to do something, it is always best if we understand why we are doing it.

Your ‘why’ has become synonymous with modern personal development parlance. Guru’s will tell you that if you want to achieve your goals in life, you must have a ‘why’ that is strong enough to help to draw you towards those goals. What they are really saying is by knowing why you are doing something, you are more likely to do it.

In my last post, I mentioned  checking my mirrors, as I sped down the Settle by-pass, only to see them filled with the blue flashing lights of a police car that was chasing me due to my excess speed.

Not wanting to re-experience that horrible sinking feeling that I got when I was greeted by this sight was the start of my ‘why’. It was a stomach-churning, heart-palpitating moment that was unpleasant to say the least, and not one that I wanted to repeat.

My why was further crystallised in my mind when I left court in September knowing that I now had 11 points on my licence, thousands of pounds in fines, fees, extra premiums and lost revenue to find and the knowledge that if I were to get caught speeding again in the next three years, I would almost certainly lose my driving license. Clearly this was not a good situation for a professional driver to be in.

I knew all-too-clearly why I had to change my driving habits, but knowing why is one thing, actually doing it presents a whole new challenge. Especially as these habits were so ingrained into my psyche.

My ‘How’

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Any habit (good, or bad) is developed by the repetition of three steps:

  1. Trigger (what initiates the behaviour).
  2. Routine (actually undertaking the habitual behaviour).
  3. Reward (what benefit is received from the habit).

Let’s look at each in turn for my situation regarding my habitual speeding and what I did to overcome the problem:

Trigger

My trigger was a desire to get from one place to another as quickly as possible, combined with driving on autopilot and not fully taking in my surroundings.

In order to tackle this, I purchased a Road Angel* device to use in my van. At the time, the purpose of the Road Angel was to provide an audible alarm when you were approaching a speed camera. They were even supposed to be able to detect and alert you to the presence of a mobile speed camera in good time, so that you could check your speed and react accordingly. This particular feature never seemed to work effectively on the device I had, even though I passed numerous mobile cameras while it was installed.

*These days, most modern SatNavs provide a perfectly acceptable alternative.

Routine

My routine simply involved me driving too fast on a regular (habitual) basis.

In reality, I found that the Road Angel provided an alarm for every fixed speed camera (as it was supposed to) and every possible known location for mobile speed cameras. It felt like the damn thing was beeping constantly!

However, remember my problem of driving on autopilot and not paying full attention to speed limit signage. At the very least my Road Angel helped me to stay alert and focus on what I was doing. It also became clear to me that the quickest and easiest way to get to my destination was to change my routine and actually stick to the speed limits, at all times.

At the beginning, this had to be done consciously. For the first time in years, I had to focus on what I was doing behind the wheel. (It is actually quite exhausting changing habits due to the additional mental load on your brain). Initially I was making a concerted effort and concentrating hard, however, as new neural pathways were developed in my brain, it started to get easier for me.

Before long, I was effortlessly taking in the speed limit signs at the side of the road and I just stuck to whatever the speed limit was, without thinking about it.

Reward

Prior to changing my habits, my perceived reward was that I got to each destination quicker and therefore I ultimately got home sooner.

My new reward was my new ‘why’. I knew that I couldn’t afford to lose my license. I had to change my ways, whatever the cost. If it meant getting home later so-be-it. Better to be home late than becoming a couch potato because I never left the home other than to go and sign-on!

I set myself a challenge to not only avoid a driving ban, but to get myself a completely clean driving licence. Something that had been a rarity throughout my 27 years of driving at the time. This would mean not just keeping on the right side of the law until the next 3 points expired, but until the 5 points issued by the magistrates expired, which would be 30/06/2013. Additionally, I would have to wait another 12 months before I could apply to have them removed from my license completely.

This became my goal. I even went so far as to have fanciful ideas that when I got my clean license back from the DVLA in 2014, I would throw a big celebration party. I even considered that I might invite the magistrates, my solicitor and even the police officer who nabbed me on the Settle by-pass.

I am sure that it was visualisations and goals like these that helped me to keep my foot off the accelerator and change my driving habits for the better.

Incidentally, slowing down did not seem to make any difference to the time I got home each evening.

Summary

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was successful in reaching my goal and I have had a clean driving license since June 2014, which is the longest its been clean, in 34 years of driving. I know that sticking to the speed limits is a basic requirement, but to me, at the time, this felt like a tremendous achievement and to be honest, it still does.


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For anybody reading this who may feel that there is some room for improvement in their driving habits, or with any other dubious habits they may have, please allow me to sign-off by sharing the following Ten tips:

  1. Set yourself a goal. It needs to inspire you.
  2. Visualise this goal and make it as vivid as possible.
  3. Share your goal. Make it public. Tell your friends. Put it on facebook. This is a tremendous accountability and support tool.
  4. Break your goal down into milestones over time. (In my case, I felt very happy when I passed the date that the next 3 points dropped off my license).
  5. Have something to act as a constant reminder of your goal. (I had the Road Angel sitting on my dashboard and constantly beeping. For you, it could be a picture, the wallpaper on your phone, or a regular alert on your phone).
  6. In this process, remind yourself of how you will feel, and the pain of not achieving your goal.
  7. Also regularly imagine how great it will feel to achieve your goal.
  8. Look for ways of turning the routine of achieving your goal into a game. (For me, I actively looked out for mobile speed cameras and totted them up throughout the week).
  9. Provide yourself with an incentive, or reward for achievement of your goal. (e.g. Big party).
  10. Congratulate yourself on little achievements along the way, but also don’t beat yourself up too much if you have momentary lapses. Acknowledge them, put them behind you and re-focus on the end-game.



I know that I am not the only one with bad habits and I don’t have to drive too far to also know that I am not the only one to have adopted bad driving habits.

For this reason, I am sure that there are some of you out there who may recognise some of yourself in this story.

I hope that by sharing my story, you feel inspired to examine your own bad habits and take action to correct them before it’s too late.

Happy Driving!

Next time, I will be examining the equipment requirements of the average parcel courier. What gear you actually need and how you can save money on it.

If you have any insights into this subject, which you would like to get out in the public domain, or if you have any comments on this post, please feel free to message me at: contact@drivingforprofit.co.uk

Driving For Profit Homepage.

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