Condition White

Condition red

Dealing with Imminent Danger

Do you pay attention when you drive? Are you always “in the moment” when  you are behind the wheel?

Remember those post 9-11 alert colors that were to indicate a potential attack? It turns out a similar color code was used during WWII (the Big One) for pilot and gunner training to help them stay alert and stay alive.

  • Condition White – resting state
  • Condition Yellow –   Psychologically alert and ready.
  • Condition Red – dealing with imminent danger.

Researchers found If a pilot or gunner was day dreaming, and not alert and ready, they could not go from condition white to condition red.  They would fail at their task.

Driving a vehicle is similar. Like the WWII pilots, when we drive, at most we only pay attention to the road about 25% of the time behind the wheel. Our minds are not on the task at hand. We have a million things going on and driving is sometimes the least of our concerns. We drive in Condition White . . .

Worst yet, most of us don’t know that we are not paying attention to driving. Another factor: in the electronic age, new and improved distractions keep coming at us everyday.

When something happens in Condition White, it’s too late for us to do anything about it. We react — we don’t respond.

After the fact, we often excuse our bad reaction  . . .

The vehicle came out from nowhere . . . It happened so fast, I didn’t see it coming . . .  They shouldn’t have been there . . .

Condition Yellow

The idea here is to avoid dealing with imminent danger.

An imminent danger is any condition where there is reasonable certainty that a danger exists that can be expected to cause death or serious physical harm immediately or before the danger can be eliminated through normal enforcement procedures. OSHA

By not exercising due care and maintaining a proper look out as good drivers should, we can put ourselves in a position of imminent danger.

And we can’t jump from Condition White (relaxed, not paying attention) to Condition Red (taking evasive actions).

The key to safe driving is to always maintain a mental state of readiness and alertness while driving. This is ‘Condition Yellow.’

Another name for Condition Yellow is relaxed concentration. Relaxed concentration helps in decision making . . . and driving is all about making decisions.

Another term that comes to mind is mindfulness. Mindfulness means you are aware of what is happening right here, right now.

Paying attention to driving takes effort. According to Daniel Goleman there are two kinds of distractions sensory distractions (things happening around you) and emotional distractions (your inner dialogue, thoughts, etc.). Emotional distractions can be the most powerful, especially while driving. Note how many accidents you hear about occur when people are traveling on occasions of weddings, funerals, job interviews, or some big life event. It’s easy to run a light, miss a stop sign or fail to yield right of way when something is on your mind . . .

So learn to both concentrate and relax while driving. This seems paradoxical, but driving in a state of relaxed concentration is a critical driving skill that can be learned and taught.

Thank you for reading this.

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