My nephew recently told me the story of truck driver friend he knows who had a light-bulb moment of understanding while being in Chicago recently. Until this moment, he took the road, in his 4000 lbs vehicle, with a stance of dominance. Pedestrians beware! He had the right-of-way.
In the Windy City, at stops, he repeatedly had pedestrians give him a sharp thump on his hood as they passed in front of his car. Why? Later he realized he had entered their space - he was in the crosswalk & they had the right-of-way. In all honesty, he reported to my nephew, he did not know that he was supposed to yield to them!
Pedestrians of Nashville, carefully of course, take back the road. You have the right to walk and you have the right-of-way! It is the law and it is a driver's job to yield to you. If a critical mass of walkers are out there on foot we can make a change in our change in our culture for the better!
The Driver's Paradigm
No doubt you have noticed that drivers act in ways they never would in person. Would you cut in line at the grocery? No, but you might certainly hold off on getting in the merge lane on the expressway if it is backed up only to dart in later.
It seems, when one gets in their car (a personal bubble if you will) that there is a great movement towards impersonalization. People will behave in ways there never would if they had to be face-to-face with the other person in the next car.
This behavior becomes a great concern when you have a population who is particularly vulnerable: those on foot and those on bicycles.
For a time, I have wanted to pursue a public awareness campaign that clearly puts the pedestrians of Nashville 1st and teaches drivers that they need to 1) see pedestrians and slow in response and 2) that pedestrians do have the right-of-way are drivers need to yield to them (it is, in fact, not the other way around --- drivers should NOT speed up to try to avoid walkers!)
Driving seems to bring out the worst in people - a fact many of us know well. Another argument for making Nashville more walkable is that the behavior drawn out of us while driving is not the face our city wants to show to our many visitors.
I came across this wholly unattractive list of emotions and behaviors that driving supports - I encourage you to read it and consider your own experience of driving.
Basic Principles of Driving Psychology
The primary affective driving norms are:
---valuing territoriality, dominance, and competition as a desirable driving style
---condoning intolerance of diversity (in needs and competencies of other drivers)
---supporting retribution ethics (or vigilante motives with desire to punish or amend)
---social acceptance of impulsivity and risk taking in driving
condoning aggressiveness, disrespect, and the expression of hostility
These affective norms are negative and anti-social. Socio-cultural methods must be used to reduce the attractiveness of these aggressive norms and to increase the attractiveness of positive and cooperative driver roles.
The primary cognitive driving norms are:
---inaccurate risk assessment
---biased and self-serving explanations of driving incidents
---lack of emotional intelligence as a driver
---low or underdeveloped level of moral involvement (dissociation and egotism)
These cognitive norms are inaccurate and inadequate. Self-training and self-improvement techniques must be taught so that drivers can better manage risk and regulate their own emotional behavior.
The primary sensorimotor driving norms are:
---automatized habits (un-self-conscious or unaware of one’s style and risk)
---errors of perception (e.g., distance, speed, initiating wrong action)
---lapses (in one’s attention or performance due to fatigue, sleepiness, drugs, boredom, inadequate training or preparation)
These sensorimotor norms are inadequate and immature. Lifelong driver self-improvement exercises are necessary to reach more competent habits of driving.