Situational awareness is a simple concept, but in practice it is far from it. While you may think that you know what’s going on around you, the fact is that your brain will not alert the conscious mind of all the information that is flowing in. Under many circumstances throughout a typical day, we are all bombarded by this sensory data, especially when we’re driving.
Jeff Gonzales, a decorated and respected US Navy SEAL and President of Trident Concepts, LLC., recently shared his expertise about maintaining situational awareness in a vehicle with ITS Solutions and had some really great tips for many different situations.
Leaving earlier for your daily commute can put you in an entirely different mindset. You won’t feel “rushed” to try and make that red light, change lanes without checking your blind spot, or merging into traffic recklessly because you’re in a hurry. How much earlier will depend on you, but 10 minutes seems to be the sweet spot.
Keep Your Head on a Swivel
When it comes to driving, you really do need a high level of situational awareness. Things are coming at you fast, quite literally; and your brain won’t have enough time to process everything. Always remember:
- Never stop driving the vehicle.
- Look for drivable terrain.
- Keep your eyes on where you want the vehicle to go.
Lock Your Doors
The first thing, which should go without saying, is to lock your doors the moment you get into your vehicle. Try to make that as much of habit as putting on your seat belt.
Also, be mindful of automatic vehicle locks that unlock the doors when you put the vehicle in park. Most of these can be disabled and if you don’t know how, take it to the dealership and ask them to do it for you.
You should keep improvised weapons at the ready for those close quarters fights when you can’t or don’t have time to get to your firearm, which could be difficult to access when seat-belted. Gonzales doesn’t go so far as to call these improvised weapons a final choice, but more of a transition to a better weapon.
We’ve all seen examples of road rage that ended badly for the good guy. If the vehicle followed you for several miles, or even blocks, stop at a police station or other public location.
If your vehicle is mobile, it can be your best defense and weapon. If you’re in fear for your life, do what you have to do to get off the “X”. If you decide to exit the vehicle, at least have a plan.
Here are a few more drills to test your own situational awareness in a vehicle:
- During your driving commute to work, pay attention to the vehicles around you. Do you recognize any of them from the day before or from any previous commute? See how many vehicles you can pick out that travel the same route at the same time as you.
- While observing other cars on the road, notice the driver. What are they doing? Are you able to ‘sense’ their body language? How do you feel about the way they are driving?
- As you are driving, randomly pick a car and then as quickly as you can – begin any and all observations to describe the vehicle to someone else. If you were asked to describe it, what details would you be able to recall?
These are just some simple ideas to think about when you spend time in or around a vehicle. Key takeaway: When in doubt, don’t stop; keep the vehicle moving.