By Leo Babauta.
I drive slower these days. While I used to be a bit of a driving maniac (ask my wife), passing everybody and stepping hard on my accelerator, I would also get increasingly frustrated when people would drive slow and keep me from driving fast, or cut me off. Driving was a stressful experience.
Not anymore. These days, driving is a much more calm, serene experience, and I enjoy it much more.
I look around at other drivers and wonder whether they really need to get to where they’re going so fast, and whether they’ll slow down when they get there. I wonder if it’s really worth burning all that gas and getting so angry and risking so many lives. And then I think about other things, because driving for me has become a time of contemplation.
I heartily recommend driving slower — for many reasons, but one of the best reasons is that it has made me a much happier person. It’s such a simple step to take, but it makes an incredibly big difference.
Recently a reader named Vadim wrote to me with the following comment on speeding:
I have recently acquired a TomTom GPS in car navigator. Amongst its many astonishing features, it has a display on it that shows you your estimated arrival time for the route you are traveling … Now here is the kicker; I used to routinely travel at 130% of the speed limit everywhere … I thought that I was keeping myself alert and saving time. My TomTom, however, disagreed. In fact anywhere I traveled (and I routinely drive more than 100 miles) I would only shave off 5-10 minutes of the estimated arrival time! 5-10minuts of time that is then wasted because I wasn’t late to start off with!
Since then, I adopted a new way of driving, I never speed.
I love this comment, and it inspired me to write this post. People often think they’re saving time by driving faster, but it’s not very much time, and it’s not worth your sanity or safety.
Here are just 5 reasons to drive slower:
- Save gas. The best ways to save gas (besides driving less or driving a fuel-efficient vehicle) are to avoid excessive idling, more gradual accelerating and decelerating, and driving slower (see report on Edmunds.com). With gas prices so high these days, wasting gas by driving unnecessarily fast is something we can’t afford.
- Save lives. Driving fast can kill people (including the driver). Two stats: Traffic is the biggest single killer of 12-16 year olds. Surprisingly, at 35mph you are twice as likely to kill someone you hit as at 30mph. (Source) Faster driving gives you a shorter amount of time to respond to something in your path, and even a fraction of a second can mean the difference between life and death. Drive slower for your safety and that of those around you … especially drive slow around runners, cyclists, schools, and neighborhoods with kids on the streets.
- Save time? As Vadim pointed out in his email, while you think you’re saving time by driving faster, it’s not a lot of time. And that small amount of time you’re saving isn’t worth it, considering the other factors on this list. Better yet, start out a few minutes early and you’ll arrive at the same time as someone who drove faster but started later, and you’ll arrive much happier than that person to boot.
- Save your sanity. The above three reasons are very important ones, but for me the most noticeable difference has been the huge drop in stress levels when I drive. Far from being a crazy experience, driving is actually a relaxing and pleasant experience now. I no longer get road rage, because I simply don’t care whether other drivers are going slow or cutting me off.
- Simplify your life. This is related to the one above, but expanded. In addition to saving your stress levels, driving slower can reduce many other complications as well — the headache of accidents and speeding tickets, for one, going to the gas station too often, for another, but also the hectic pace of life. Why must we rush through life? Slow down and enjoy life more. If we’re always in a hurry to get places, when will we get to our destination and finally be happy? Life is a journey — make it a pleasant one.
OK, assuming that you want to drive slower, here are some of the tips that worked best for me:
- Play relaxing music. My favorite is anything by Jack Johnson or Ben Harper. But anything that relaxes you is good: “You Sexy Thing” by Hot Chocolate, “Drive Slow” by Kanye West, anything by Otis Redding or Aretha, “Feels Like Rain” by John Hyatt, “Son of a Preacher Man” by Aretha or Dusty Springfield, Radiohead, Prince, Sade … Whatever you choose, enjoy it, and relax.
- Ignore other drivers. This was my problem before. I cared so much about what the other drivers were doing, that it would stress me out. At times, it would cause me to drive faster to spite other drivers (awful, I know). Now, I just ignore them. Well, I pay attention so I don’t crash into anyone, but I don’t worry about what they’re doing or how dumb they are.
- Leave early. If you speed because you’re running late, make it a habit of getting ready early and leaving early. Now you don’t have to worry about being late, and you can enjoy the ride.
- Brainstorm. I like to use my drive time for contemplation. I come up with ideas for things to write about, I think about my day (either the day to come or the day in review), I think about my life as a whole and where I want to go.
- Keep to the right. If you drive slower than the other crazy drivers out there, it’s wise to keep out of their way if possible and keep to the right. While I tend to ignore other drivers who might get mad at me for driving slow (I don’t care about them anymore), it’s good to be polite.
- Enjoy the drive. Most of all, make your drive a pleasant experience — whether that’s through music or contemplation or however you want to enjoy the ride, remember that the ride is just as important as the destination.
- A Guide to Cultivating Compassion in Your Life, with 7 Practices
- 10 Benefits of Rising Early, and How to Do It
- 12 Ways to Decompress after High Stress
- The Three Secrets to Happiness
- Are Your Days Crazy? Take Control
- Edit Your Life Part 1: Commitments
- Edit Your Life Part 2: Your Rooms
- Develop Clean House Habits One at a Time
- How NOT To Multi-task: Work Simpler and Saner
- Slow Down to Enjoy Life
- Zen Mind: How to Declutter