Can living without a car improve your driving?

driving by ViernestWorking through my thicket of RSS feeds this morning (have you seen our blogroll? lots of great sites around town) I followed AdriC‘s link to a provocative Portland Urbanista post from January:

Despite efforts to drive slowly and keep an eye out for non-motorized transport, I’m still convinced that somewhere, sometime, I will hit someone.  And I wonder how many drivers feel the same way.

BikePortland‘s Jonathan Maus agreed:

A lot of the anger directed at people on the road isn’t really true anger or hatred… it’s based in fear. People on bikes literally fear for their lives because all it takes is a small mistake or brief span of inattention and they could be killed… While people in cars fear that no matter what they do and no matter how careful they are, they might hit someone on a bike.

Here’s what I said:

This was actually a fairly big part of my decision to go car-free.

Presence of mind isn’t among my strengths. As a result, I’m a below-average driver — there’s no doubt in my mind. Thank god I’d never had a substantial collision with anything else (bike, pedestrian, car, etc.) but I’m pretty sure, with the number of hours I was behind a wheel, it was just a matter of time.

Living without a car has definitely improved my driving. These days, when I drive a Zipcar or friend’s vehicle, I’m no longer transported into this fantasy world where I’m confident of my ability to react at 45 mph. Spending so much time moving at human speeds means that I’ve regained what was (when I was 16! in retrospect I remember it perfectly!) a visceral understanding that a two-ton vehicle rocketing down the street is extremely dangerous and deserves my undivided attention.

Don’t get me wrong, cars can be great and useful and necessary for many. But this is part of the reason they’re not for me.

(Creative Commons driving photo by Viernest.)

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