Thu | Nov 26, 2020

Mental stability and car upkeep

Published:Sunday | November 22, 2020 | 8:11 AMPaul Glenroy Messam - Contributor

When a driver slips behind the wheel of a motor car, he automatically becomes an important part of this complex machine. “If the driver is both physically and mentally prepared and ready to drive, the vehicle will perform at its peak” says Dr Andrew Burton.

“The key to the entire operation of defensive driving is the driver,” Dr Burton adds. According to him, driving is essentially an activity of the mind, but additionally, our bodies are also important as they translate the impulses of our thoughts, as we meet and deal with the many challenges of the roads.

A driver who sits ‘tall in the saddle’, is alert, has his/her head up and hands on the wheel, immediately creates an impression of being in control. “Fatigue arrives very quickly when muscles are taut. Therefore, every effort should be made to remain physically relaxed while being mentally alert,” says Dr Valerie Freckleton, consultant psychologist.

Robert Benoist, a French Grand Prix driver of the 1920s and 1930s, embraced the view that the stability of the car depends on the personal stability of the driver.

A person with excellent reflexes and a wandering mind or poor physical coordination can be a dangerous driver. A driver should be able to translate reflex action into correct physical action. For example, stepping on the brakes, turning the wheel, and so on. Reflexes are of little value in defensive driving, unless supported by experience and discretion. “All motorists should bear in mind that going beyond normal physical capabilities, the concept of emotional adaptability to safe driving becomes extremely important each day,” says Dr Freckleton. She says that, with today’s rush and heavy traffic, mental stability is of paramount importance.

We must bear in mind that our driving ability varies from day to day, in relation to our general outlook on the COVID-19 pandemic, the curfew, the mask wearing, the economy and our lifestyle. For example, Driver A, who just had a spat with his spouse before he drives off to his work, or Driver B who is on his way to the funeral of a loved one; neither of these two persons could be described as being in a settled mind. The driver who had a quarrel may release his anger and frustration by driving more aggressively; the mourner may find that his grief has distracted him completely from his driving. Minor ailments can also deaden reflexes and slash driving efficiency.

In regards to car upkeep, motorists could be divided into three groups.

1. This group tries to keep their vehicles in tip-top shape and good working order, motivated by a desire to keep high repair bills down.

2. This group drives the motor vehicle until it stops and will not move. In the interest of time and work demands, they stop at gas stations only to fill the gas tanks and only add oil, water or coolant if the gas station attendant advises them to do so.

3. This group pays strict attention to the nuts and bolts and general mechanical well-being of their motor vehicles. The running gears are checked periodically and parts are replaced before they start to show signs of wear and tear. They are of the view that the basis of a well-maintained vehicle is a well-tuned engine.