Few would contest the claim that most car crashes are caused by some kind of driver error. It’s the nut behind the wheel that contributes most to the carnage we see on the world’s roads.
During our lives, we all formulate mental models that help us to understand the world, including the driving environment. Mental models are ways of thinking that help us to simplify complexity and make sense of what we see and hear. The more models we have, the more likely we are to have the right tool for the job of understanding what’s going on around us and within us.
When it comes to dealing with others’ dopey driving, one such model – or way of thinking – is called Hanlon’s Razor. The suggestion is that we should not attribute to malice that which is more easily explained by stupidity. The model is a useful reminder that we all make stupid mistakes from time to time. You do, don’t you?
It’s easy to become preoccupied with a tailgater, especially if we take it personally
Remember those times recently that you were being followed by another vehicle too closely. What did you think? I’m going to hazard a guess that sometimes you might have jumped to the conclusion that the tailgating driver was a complete ####! I’m also going to hazard a guess that your response was sometimes just as dopey as their driving. But what if they’re not really a complete [insert your preferred expletive] intending you harm? What if they’re a likeable but distracted soul, or unable to judge what a safe following distance looks like, or simply oblivious to their tailgating habit?
Hanlon’s way of thinking can help us to avoid our driving decisions being clouded in red mist. On being tailgated, we could choose to entertain the possibility that the dopey driving we’re seeing in our rear-view mirrors is borne of stupidity, not necessarily malice.
Not everyone is out to get us. Right?
Founder, How to Drive