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Competitive or co-operative: Which are you?

When you're driving on the highway, do you like to be in the front of the pack or follow another vehicle? The former is considered a competitive driver, and the latter is co-operative (and less likely to get rear-ended). Photograph by: Darren Stone, Times Colonist

By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist, November 2nd, 2012

Do you compete or cooperate with other drivers? Here are several scenarios that will give you an unequivocal answer.

When you’re driving on the freeway, do you move to the left lane to allow traffic entering the freeway an easy access, or do you maintain your lane position and rely on the driver entering the flow of traffic to speed up or slow to merge? If there is no opportunity to move left, do you decrease or increase speed to accommodate the entering driver?

Co-operative drivers move over and, depending on the circumstances, alter their speed to allow for a smooth transition for entering traffic. Competitive drivers do not. They generally hold to a set speed and lane positioning and make other drivers manoeuvre around them.

When you are looking for a parking space at the mall, do you drive into the parking space nose first closest to the shopping area, or do you find a space that does not involve backing and settle for a longer walk to the mall shopping areas? Cooperative drivers leave the spaces closest to the mall entrance for others who may not be as physically able, or to those with children. Competitive drivers will always seek the most convenient self-serving parking space, regardless of the circumstances.

? Do you increase speed when being passed by another driver on the highway? If so, there is a description for this kind of behaviour. It is called the “magnet effect.” Drivers are drawn to the passing vehicle as a result of competitive tendencies. Cooperative drivers maintain their speed when being passed, so as to provide a consistent reference speed for the driver of the passing vehicle. Most drivers behave in the competitive or co-operative fashion subconsciously and are not even aware of their speed in the above-mentioned circumstance.

When you are driving on a two-lane highway in a cluster of a half-dozen vehicles, would you rather be the leader of the pack or the last driver of the bunch? Competitive drivers usually want to lead. Co-operative drivers opt to quarterback the unofficial convoy. Given that the most common crash is the rear-end collision, it’s obvious which driver is more likely to be hit from behind in that scenario.

When you see the traffic light turn to amber upon your approach, do you speed up to make it through the intersection or do you maintain speed, knowing full well that you have gone past the point of no return and stopping is out of the question? Competitive drivers increase speed in this situation, while co-operative drivers maintain speed.

On a freeway with three lanes in each direction, which lane do you choose? Competitive drivers usually take the extreme left lane and travel at a higher speed. Co-operative drivers occupy the middle lane. They help merging traffic execute a smooth access to the freeway and do not impede faster traffic in the left lane, commonly referred to as the passing lane.

Competitive drivers are self-centred. Co-operative drivers are field-centred. The competitive group of drivers concentrates more on the skill of the driving task, while co-operative drivers pay more attention to safety. The best race-car drivers in the world learn to balance the two seemingly opposing driving philosophies. They can balance speed and safety in a near perfect equilibrium. They learn to compete and to cooperate throughout a race, depending on the circumstances.

Many corporations and governments are now demanding a driver cognitive profile prior to hiring drivers. I will update readers on this trend upon my return from the Driving Schools Association of the Americas convention next week.

Steve Wallace is the owner of Joan Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island and in the Central interior of B.C. He is the former vice-president of the Associated Driving Schools of the Americas and a certified B.C. teacher.







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