Mind Driving

Mind Driving

I had the privilege in the summer to attending one of the day seminars that the author Stephen Haley runs based on his book Mind Driving.  I would highly recommend both the book and the seminar to both driving instructors or parents of children they are teaching to driving.  It is informative and if you approach it with an open mind can be revolutionary.

My notes are based on the day seminar and hopefully wet your appetite enough for you to buy Stephens book for attend the seminar.

Mind Driving: New Skills for Staying Alive on the Road by Stephen Haley

Safe driving is in how we think, far more than our hands and feet skills.

Good role models make driving look easy and younger drivers feel its more just hands and feet.

He was interested in how his children drove after passing there test verses how he drove.  Research/development involved looking at human expertise, brain function, eye function, learning theory, coaching and driving skill.

He then went and talking to over 40 industry experts and organisations.  He went onto the Internet with the information and after a year the DIA contacted him about taking the web site and turning it into the book.

He now runs training seminars and speaks at industry events promoting safer driving and how driving instructor teach to make drivers more safe.

www.skilldriver.org involved into four parts

  1. Online book
  2. Publish printed book
  3. Explore young drivers and L test
  4. Examine Pre-driving mindset

What are driving skills, he looked at page 363 for the DSA’s book Driving the essential skills.  He was shocked that the dsa put safe driving for live onto the driver rather than it being the DSA’s mission to try to make it happen.

He developed a thought process to defining the skills.  Called the big picture. Page 37 of his book. Most drivers have a poor sense of danger, which we know because of where they place themselves on the road.

  1. Beliefs
  2. Sense of danger
  3. Rules and Regulations
  4. Learning from experience
  5. Fitness check
  6. Observation
  7. Risk assessment and control
  8. Car Control

Shows why and how safe driving

Which skills are taught for the test? 3, 5, 8

Key aim: turning the thinking about risk into teachable skills.

The learning curve, this gives skills a tangible shape, there are 5 types.

  1. Beginner, focused on the test.
  2. Inexperienced, victim of circumstance.
  3. Average, majority stuck in a rut.  This is about 80% of drivers
  4. Advanced, raising the standard.
  5. Expert, master of own destiny.

The key transitions are, start with rule guided to experience guided.  They move from external to internal control when they know what to do. Actions based to results (what they want to achieve). Left brain to whole brain.

Belief where do they come from?

  1. Childhood / parents
  2. Friends role moles
  3. Peer pressure, wanted to fit in
  4. Aspirations, what we want to be true
  5. Personal gain, self interest

And they change, but not by being told

  1. Explain and show
  2. People decide their own beliefs

In driving they are

  1. A mindset to help control the risk
  2. The source of internal control

10 Beliefs but there are more

  1. Safety
  2. Thinking, risk and decisions
  3. Blame
  4. Responsibility
  5. Skills and Learning
  6. Concentration, distraction and emotion
  7. Aggression
  8. Tolerance, cooperation and courtesy
  9. Influence
  10. Pride and Pleasure

Some bad beliefs are:-

  1. I am late and have to make up time.
  2. Stupid drivers should be punished.
  3. Driving is easy, I can think about other things.

Believes likely to increase risk:-

  1. I’m a really good driver, I can handle anything
  2. The best skill is car control
  3. Driving fast is impressive
  4. Driving really close saves fuel
  5. Fast reactions will handle any situation
  6. It’s good to have fun with friends in the car
  7. It’s degrading to be overtaken
  8. If someone upsets me


List of beliefs on left, on right ‘risk is likely to… Then state wether it would increase or decrease if they where to follow the belief.

Peer pressure example

Is based on a core belief…

I must drive to my peers expectations

– to earn respect and status and to fit in

– to prove I am daring and brave, not weak and scared

Can be challenged with the control issue

When a driver acts on peer pressure, who is in control?

It all states with Attitude

Chain of Causation

  1. Experience, from what I’ve seen
  2. Belief, this is how it works
  3. Attitudes, so this is the way
  4. Behaviour, I do things.

And trust is key. Can test beliefs with ‘ will this always be true’?

Skill 2: Sense of Danger

Without a good sense of danger you cannot be safe

Most motorists have a poor sense of where danger really comes from.

Danger has three causes:

  1. Speed, how well can I change speed or direction to avoid danger?
  2. Surprise, how certain am I about everything that will happen next?
  3. Space, how much space do I have available to use, and share?

Balance is the key, ‘to preventing collisions’ and ‘no single factor can’.


  1. Causes of danger
  2. How risk works
  3. Levers of control

Are you still a learner?

  1. How we increase our own expertise
  2. We can learn how to learn
  3. Experience can be wasted

How can we increase learning? Page 73

  1. Decide to learn, often a secret hurdle
  2. Learn naturally, forcing it hinders the process
  3. Assess yourself objectively, avoid internal blame
  4. Find the learning events, errors, other peoples errors, things that go well
  5. Look for way things happen, causes not symptoms ie I took the bend to fast, should be I did not notice the adverse camber.
  6. Use the skills structure, gives more meaning
  7. Enjoy what you are doing, essential to wanting to do well

Fitness check

Most drivers show poor self assessment of there drive fitness.

Anger can render you unfit to drive (page 84)

  1. What causes anger? Danger, space, surprise, causing delay ….
  2. Is it ok to feel angry? Yes but not to drive angry, separate emotion from action.
  3. How to prevent anger? Decide beforehand to, share space not claim it, anticipate to reduce surprise, expect and accept mistakes, not take it personally or seek revenge, never assume someone will back down, hold control over the situation.

Expect people to make you angry sometimes…

Controlling conflict – someone else is angry (page 84)

How to prevent escalation?

  1. Apologise for mistakes,
  2. Calming gestures – open palm,
  3. Limit movement to appear non threatening,
  4. Slight smile to confirm non harmful intent,
  5. Look away – is opposite to attack posture,
  6. Avoid hard eye contact,
  7. Put space between you,
  8. Remain calm.

Is it just for driving? Works anywhere, self control increases safety.

What is a hazard?

Traditionally, “any situation which could involve you adjusting speed or changing course”, DSA

Does this pinpoint danger? Not very well, too general.

So now, Part of every hazard is YOU!

Why is that a good thing? This is what gives you control, it’s more involved, about how drivers see themselves, points to hazard control.

What is a hazard?

Any threat not yet allowed for in your thinking and actions, which means, “a loss of control over what happens to you”.

But we often actively give away control to other people. (ie getting to close to a car in front). Or to chance ie cannot see round a bent.

Limitations of vision

Seeing movement

  1. Side to side motion is easy to detect
  2. Away, towards motion is poor to detect

How does this effect driving?

Seeing distance and space uses many different cues like…

Failing to look or see is the top crash factor, all ages, road types, both sexes.

Blind spots, bigger danger than rear blind spots is the driver windscreen pillar.

Start to assess from further back and know your car, where you can’t see.

Two types of bind spots, on the car and in your eyes.

Skill 7 Risk Assessment and Control

What is the key to safety? Balancing speed, surprise,

Legal speeding

  1. Can we go to fast within the speed limit?
  2. More casualties below than above speed limits
  3. Speed limits are not blameless speeds, or automatically safe

Can a rule set your safe speed?

Using the highway codes description, what does ‘clear’ mean? ‘thinking distance’ = 0.68 sec, driving on limit of maximum braking …?

So it is not safe to trust rules on speed.

Picture on Page 138

Assume there is an on coming vehicle just out of sight.


What is a Surprise? Anything that is not predicted that might need a reaction.

Most seriously, Anything that causes a reaction before calmly checking it is safe.

Danger sign? Feeling rushed, thinking is behind events

Three types of surprise:

  1. Received, someone surprises you
  2. Given, you surprise someone else
  3. Self inflicted, you cause yourself to be surprised

Why anticipate to gain time to react and control event

  1. Decide to anticipate
  2. Scan near to far distance
  3. See event as a flow
  4. Understand causes
  5. Understand other road users
  6. What do they want to do?
  7. Are they in danger?
  8. Use stereotypes?

How do you measure anticipation?

Surprise horizon : how far away is the event you didn’t expect.

Measure in time see picture on page 162

Surprise that you give out?

Who should make sure other people anticipate you?

Why do we signal?

HC ” to warn and inform other road users of your intended actions”.

Is that enough? Or even the right goal?

Safer objective: be predictable!

  1. Makes you think about what others are thinking
  2. Says what has to be achieved and makes you check
  3. Highlights who could be a danger
  4. Ensures all signals are consistent

If you surprise someone they are more likely to hit you

Page 164 roundabout picture.

Be aware that we radiate intentions all the time

Are fast reactions a key skill?

More important than fast reactions is What we are reacting to ….  Reacting to what will/mayhappen gives more time and far more control.  Relying on fast reactions is a sign of slow thinking.


Space has a special purpose, to give safety

Page 175 picture talk about the hazards of pedestrians using mobiles

Threatened space – how to define?

If someone else could or wants to get there to.

Wasted – for safety picture page 174

Crowded – herd behaviour page 179

Few drivers actively control space for its safety purpose.

“Give Space To Danger”

Practical Training

Objective – what is training trying to achieve?

The trainers greatest give is to implant the desire and the means to learn.

Note also that people express themselves in skill.  Self worth is increased by things we do well.


Told what to do

Command and control

Blame / threat

Push – telling

Learning forced from outside

External control

Detached low interest

Changes the task





Own thinking and decisions take responsibility

Take responsibility

Trust / support

Pull questions

Learning created inside

Internal control

Engaged / high interest

Peer Pressure.

Don’t respond to peer pressure – it gives away control.  Rephrase to engage with a question with

If you respond to peer pressure – who is in control or depersonalise with

If a driver responds to peer pressure – who is in control? You can reverse the role with

If I respond to peer pressure – who is in control?

Different approaches have different effects…

Safe driving

Is driving: “a behaviour to be controlled” or “a skill to be developed”


  1. Rule makers
  2. People who fear driving
  3. Psychologists


  1. Trainers
  2. Competent drivers

It’s about practical thinking skills

Trainers top 10

  1. Speed / Surprise / Space model (p65)
  2. The big picture (p42)
  3. Part of every hazard is YOU (p95)
  4. Be predictable! If you surprise someone, they are far more likely to hit you (p163), don’t just signal.
  5. Give space to danger, that’s what space is for (p177/8)
  6. Preventing a collision is more important than who would be to blame for it (belief 3, p52)
  7. Safe driving is a team effort (belief 8, p58)
  8. Relying on fast reactions is a sign of slow thinking (p160), react on the future and not the past.
  9. Threatened space, if someone else could get there too (p175), when is an empty space dangerous
  10. Surprise is a sign of poor Observation (p91), something unexpected could have been seen. Surprise Horizon (p161).


Report 87 Learning to Drive the Evidence DFT may 2008 p16

Goto skilldriver.org and download Young drivers adult  part 1 , 2, 3

Look out for the top 20 tips for handling peer pressure on the reports.