26 Jan 2013

The art of concentration AKA I'm late, get out of the way!

Do you concentrate at all times when behind the wheel?  The answer is, of course, no.  No-one concentrates all the time.  Those long sections of motorway when you suddenly come to your senses and wonder where the last 5 minutes went to.

I'm not talking about sleeping at the wheel but literally the mind blanking off the process of driving, or rather doing it automatically whilst the majority of the brain thinks about other stuff, like what's on the radio or what's for dinner tonight.

We can't force ourselves to concentrate at all times, it just happens.  My own worst case of lack of concentration comes when stuck behind a slow moving vehicle with no chance of overtaking them.  My brain just admits defeat and switches to some other mode, just like when David Coulthard in the McLaren was stuck behind Enrique Bernoldi's Arrows in the 2001 Monaco Grand Prix for over half the race.  The journey just goes on and for mile after mile in the most dreary manner, until Bernoldi pits for fuel.

I often tell my wife that speed limits should be higher and slower cars should be legally obliged to move out of the way because driving faster invigorates a man's mind which, in turn, makes the roads a safer place because we stay focussed on the road and all the hazards that entails.  Of course she tells me that's a stupid idea.  But I still like to think it would be the case.

All of this was brought back to me one morning this week when a regular journey had to be undertaken in a time that was far less than it would normally take.  In short, my son needed to be at school for 7.45am for a trip to London.  My wife was out feeding her horse - and I slept through the alarm clock.  She came back home at 7.35am to find us still asleep.  Panic stations.

We were out the door within 8 minutes.  The journey to school takes 10 minutes.  I had to compress that time into 2 minutes.

During that journey we didn't break any laws nor endangered ourselves or others.  The local speed limits are 60mph but the roads are not really suitable for these speeds on a day to day basis.  The traffic was light.  I drove like a man possessed - encouraged by my, quite thrilled but still a little sleepy, son in the passenger seat.

Eyes on stalks, in THE ZONE.  Overtook 2 cars, screamed at a Mitsubishi L200 taking far too long to turn right out of a T-junction, approached the limits of traction around some corners.  Slow in, fast out on blind bends.  Hit 30mph limits with inches to spare, just like an F1 car screaming into the pit lane.

God, it was fun.  We got to school just a couple of minutes late, and in time for the trip.

The point of this is that driving can be boring.  Despite the fact we all have to adhere to the same rules of the road, some of us choose to travel slower than others (normally the ones in front of you and me) which rather spoils the experience for those of us who choose to stay at, or sometimes slightly over, the limits.

We petrolheads, stuck as we are with the 90% of road users who don't know or care about cars and only think of them as a mode of transport that doesn't involve having to sit next to a nutter, often find driving boring and zone out, rather than enter THE ZONE.

My solution to this is that in order to drive fully engaged and with 100% of brainpower on the task in hand, and to fully saviour and enjoy the experience, we should set off to where we are going 20% later than normal.

When I'm Prime Minister I am going to enact it into law.  That way no-one would fall asleep at the wheel or hit someone because they weren't concentrating.  And we'd all get to where we need to go quicker, which would add billions to the economy.  Probably.

You may read this and think, like my wife does, that it's a stupid idea.  You're probably right.  But we can all dream can't we?