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My driving needs help

Published: Friday, Jan. 24, 2014 1:16 p.m. CDT

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Do you find yourself wondering about your driving skills? I am starting to question mine. Is it my driving skills, my lack of using those skills or my attention span that is at fault? I’m not totally sure.

It is said that children have trouble with their attention span, maybe I am becoming more like a child because I find my attention wandering a great deal when I am driving. I am not talking about “distracted” driving. You know what that is — driving while you are talking on the phone, driving and applying makeup, driving and searching for items in your purse or pockets, and of course the worst distracted driving of all, texting. As several of those things are now illegal, I try not to do most of those.

I am talking about just paying attention to what I am doing. I drove to Walnut from Wyanet one night recently and for several miles, I couldn’t have told you where I was. I wasn’t sure how many more miles it was to Walnut or what houses I had already passed. I have driven that road many times. You would think I would know exactly where I was. A little frightening — I could have gotten lost! Well, maybe not, it is a pretty straight road from Wyanet to Walnut. As long as I didn’t drift off of the main road, I am thinking I was probably fine. A little strange to think that I was paying so little attention.

Last summer I was driving from my house to one of my popular destinations, Wyaton Hills Golf Course. Someone else also going to the same destination told me, upon arrival, that I had been following too closely along the way. I said, with shock in my voice, “Really?” I wasn’t aware that I was that close. Moreover, even though I didn’t admit it at the time, I had no idea who it was ahead of me, and I really had not paid enough attention to know that someone was ahead of me or that I was possibly that close to them. Now that’s pretty scary.

So now I am left with trying to figure out what the problem is with my driving. In years gone by, I drove to work every day — for several years to Ottawa and also to LaSalle. I drove down Interstate 80 with a high level of focus and totally comfortable with my driving skills. After that period of time, I drove from Wyanet to Princeton on a daily basis, and I was also completely aware of what I was doing.

I also have observed that our winter weather this year has been more stressful to my driving than in years past. I made several trips to Bloomington recently, in some of our worst winter weather, and I was extremely nervous. Two days in a row it took me two and one-half hours to make what is usually a one and one-half hour trip. I was exhausted, and I wasn’t sure that I could make the trip again. I felt like my hands were paralyzed; I was gripping the steering wheel so tightly.

Is driving one of those skills that you have to use on a daily basis in order to remain comfortable and good at it? I’m not sure. But now, I’m retired, and my driving is a little more casual. The sense of purpose in my driving extends to getting to my daughter’s house, arriving at coffee with the girls on Monday mornings, and to shop at the local stores. Maybe that is the cause of my attention lapses. There is no urgency in my driving, no timeclock for my driving to get me to on time.

Where do I go from here? Is there some test I can take to check my attention span? I don’t know. I guess I need to have a talk with myself and impress upon me that I need to pay more attention — that I need to think about my driving when I am driving. I need to remind myself that I am capable and that I do know what I am doing. I need to be aware of my surroundings when I drive. In other words I need to wake up when I drive. I am not sure that all of that will make me more comfortable driving in the horrible winter weather we have been having, but that’s a whole different story.

Don’t be afraid if you see me coming in front or behind you — I vow to be more with it when I drive. I vow to see my surroundings and keep my attention as it should be, on my driving.

Nita Wyatt of Wyanet can be reached at golfingfor2@ymail.com.

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