Peer pressure is often talked about when we’re learning how to drive and even more so once we hit the road for the first time, but how often do we hear about it once we’ve become more experienced? While the topic may go away once you become an experienced driver, the issue itself doesn’t.
Today we’ll take a look at the ways peer pressure presents itself to various experienced drivers and how you can handle it accordingly.
Of the most annoying peer pressure situations, and one that you’ll find whether you're driving a passenger vehicle, a semi-truck, or riding a motorcycle, is tailgating. We’ve all experienced a time where we’re going the speed limit and everyone on the road is content except that one person who just happens to be behind you. Right behind you. Tailgating is not always a byproduct of road rage. Some drivers don’t realize how close they are to the vehicle in front of them and get too comfortable being so close to other vehicles. For some, the temptation to slam the brakes and ‘teach them a lesson’ may be strong. For others, giving in and speeding up may be their reflex. However, neither are great ideas since they can both result in an accident.
The best way to handle tailgaters is simply to slow down slightly to increase the space in front of you. This way, if you have to stop, you can stop more gradually and there will be less chance of the person behind crashing into you. When you are able to safely do so, moving into another lane and allowing them to pass is an option. If a tailgater gets aggressive, our advice for handling road rage whether you’re a new or experienced driver, remains the same - don’t engage in any sort of hostility and instead avoid eye contact, and give the other driver plenty of space and the right-of-way, to avoid a potentially violent situation from arising.
Just when you think you’ll never be peer pressured by another kid again, you become a truck driver and are constantly being given the age-old air signal that begs you to honk your horn. It may seem harmless, and the kid may be really cute, but honking your horn could not only startle others around you, but signal that something is wrong to other drivers and, depending on the area, even break noise bylaws. With this in mind, truckers should use some discernment when deciding whether to use your air horn, your steering wheel horn, or even just giving a smile and a wave. If there are pedestrians, cyclists, or motorcycle riders nearby that will feel the full effect of an air horn, that would be a great time to give a small honk with your steering wheel horn or just a smile and a wave. If you’re on a fairly empty stretch of road or surrounded by truckers who might know what you’re up to and you see a young, potential truck driver giving you the arm pump, pull the air horn for all to hear when safe!
Pressure doesn’t only come from kids that want to engage with you and spread some joy, though! You’re also likely to feel most pressured by some drivers in passenger vehicles that are eager to pass you and maybe haven’t educated themselves on how to share the roadways with big rigs. In these scenarios, keep the vehicle in your line of vision as much as possible, and never attempt to move into the next lane to allow them access if you’ve lost sight of them. The safest thing you can do is to allow them to pass and, in addition to keeping them in sight, ease off the throttle to distance yourself and avoid the chance of them cutting you off. When you’re stuck on a roadway with a single lane and no change for other vehicles to pass, keep moving along at a safe and legal speed and, if you can, try and find a safe place to pull over to let the speed-demons get past you.
Experienced riders know that helmets protect the most important part of our bodies - the head! Not only does wearing a helmet prevent brain injury, it’s statistically shown to decrease the likelihood of crash fatalities and, of course, it’s the law in BC. Even knowing these facts some riders may be tempted to ditch their helmet in exchange for feeling the wind in their hair, or for incorrectly thinking they look “cool”. If you’re riding in a group, it may be tempting to try for a different look or feeling the elements directly while you’re riding, to fit in with someone else you’re with but safety should always come first. If your friends won’t take “because I want to keep my brain in one piece” for an answer, maybe “because I don’t really feel like risking a $140 ticket” will do.
In some circles, the idea of ‘the bigger the bike, the better’ is circulated which may seem harmless until you find yourself on a motorcycle that is too big or too powerful for your comfort level. Motorcycles only have two points of contact on the road so they require the driver to control speed, balance, and traction simultaneously. Riding a motorcycle that isn’t properly suited to your comfort and skill level means you’re putting yourself and others on the road in danger since you’re unlikely to be able to maneuver and control the bike effectively. If you find this conversation coming up within your riding group, poking a little fun back about not needing to overcompensate and risk safety or reminding your friends that you’re setting an example for new riders is often a good approach to take. These comebacks can also come in handy when the issue of speeding or racing comes up.
According to statistics, motorcyclists are over-represented in our province’s accidents, accounting for 10% of road fatalities while only making up 3% of the province’s insured vehicles. Taking a stance against peer pressure that encourages unsafe practices could help change these statistics, for the better.
Peer pressure can come in many forms and just because you’re an experienced driver doesn’t mean you are immune to it. If you do feel pressured, take a moment and remember what qualities and behaviours you have that make you a safe and confident driver, and use these to move past the pressure you’re feeling!