drive kindly

drive kindly

"To tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world. Let us dedicate ourselves to that."

Aeschylus & Robert F. Kennedy

Sometimes when I’m keynoting an event, because of the room set up or agenda, I'm invited to sit in on some of the meeting before I talk.

When it happens, I look at it as an opportunity to potentially learn something new about an industry or the way others present or think. It’s usually less than 30 minutes but every once in a while it can be longer.

A couple years ago, I had the chance to speak at a trucking company’s corporate event. This was one of those longer opportunities to learn … about 4 hours. Safety was a big topic.

We watched several dash cam videos during that time. Seeing things from the truck driver’s view further opened my eyes to how aggressive many of us are on the road. It also gave me a deeper respect for the work of truck drivers.

One of the presenter’s slides shared a few ideas to minimize the chances of violent behavior on the road.

The obvious points…

  • Control your anger.
  • Don’t make emotional decisions.
  • Move over and let them pass.
  • Don’t honk your horn.

The new point for me … Don’t make eye contact.

I was told it’s a form of response that can escalate things. Makes sense. I just never thought about it.

As a result of that meeting, I’ve worked aggressively over the last two years on calming my driving. I spent the first 35 years of my life in the Washington D.C. area. Driving kindly wasn’t a top priority. Moving to Richmond, Virginia in 2001, my habits got a little better. But with time and the area’s growth, driving seems a little closer to what I remember 100 miles north.

What I’ve found most helpful is to give attention to 3 things…


I remind myself I’m part of a driving community and I want to be a positive part of it. This affirmation has been the most helpful to me. I don’t want to be a duck on the road* … especially in my town. Richmond’s the kind of place ... you cut someone off, five minutes later you’ll be standing next to them in line at the grocery store. Plus, I’ve got a license plate that says ‘Be 212.’ Aggressive driving is bad for the brand.

Space refers to the space around my car in relation to other vehicles. I do what I can to maximize it given the situation. More space gives me more time to respond if something goes wrong.

Speed goes both ways. Too fast and you minimize the advantage of space. Too slow and you hinder the community.

So here’s what's become my Drive Kindly affirmation (a little more interesting and aspirational than 'drive safely')…

I’m an attentive member of the driving community. I help others out where I can.
I give myself and other people space.
I’m careful with my speed.

Community. Space. Speed.

That’s it.

I’ve found it’s made my driving better for everyone. It’s more fun to be kind on the road. I’ve also found, I get to my destination in about the same time with less stress.

Like everything I write and talk about, I’m in it with you. I can write this, think about it, and do it. But if I’m having a bad day and someone cuts me off or rides my bumper, I can forget who I want to be pretty fast. That’s when I try to remind myself to ‘get back to the breath’.

Community, space, and speed, Sam.
Community. Space. Speed.

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Duck on the road?

I love the punch of some words. Some I find difficult to replace with something that keeps that punch. I used one recently and upset a few subscribers. I thought it was necessary to maximize the chance for sustained impact of the message (give others the break you want to be given).

Duck on the road keeps the punch without offending, I hope. It makes it fun and holds the sentiment. (What are you saying, Sam? You know what I’m saying.)

It’s part of what I imagine as an effective ad campaign for any department of transportation. I wrote a few rough scripts if you’re interested (below). Departments of Transportation … Let’s calm the roads. Email anytime.

Outta my lane?

I understand most people think of our work here as providing content and products that help inspire and motivate people at work. Some take the thoughts home too. But I can see how sharing my ideas on something that seems more personal might be confusing. This might be a step in that direction.

I share this story for two reasons … to increase the chances of more people driving kindly today and to remind you, no matter what meeting you’re in, you can always find something valuable when you try.

Below: A few quick details to reinforce the 3 points of Driving Kindly and my draft scripts for the ad spots.

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How to Drive Kindly...

Community: Be an attentive member of the driving community.

  • Stay focused on driving your 2,500 - 6,000-pound machine.
  • Buckle up. If you have an accident, you don’t want to make it worse.
  • Drive sober.
  • Watch for walkers, runners, scooters, bikers, motorcyclists.
  • No phones.
  • Help others where you can.
  • Let people merge.
  • Use turn signals earlier. They’re tools for sharing intentions rather than what’s happening at a particular moment. Be predictable.
  • No need to prove you have the right-of-way.
  • Let it go. (Whatever.)

Space: Give yourself and other people space.

  • Don’t tailgate.
  • Expect surprises. Many people won’t Drive Kindly and can’t drive as well as you.
  • Keep weather conditions in mind.

Speed: Be careful with your speed.

  • Impact/Damage/Cost is usually lighter at slower speeds.
  • Keep pace with traffic in appropriate places. Going too slow can also cause problems.

Community. Space. Speed.

Duck on the road ad spots...

I believe these would be best as video spots. They might also work as audio-only spots (podcasts, radio).

The scripts below are for video. Each follows the same convention. We see someone doing something wrong on the road from the point-of-view of a driver in a car. The narrator explains the problem and a kind reason it might be happening … a reasonable excuse. There’s a pause as we see the unkind driving continue. The narrator says, “No. S/he’s just another … duck on the road.” At this point, we might see a stylized logo overlaid on the scene that says ‘Drive Kindly.’ with the narrator concluding, “Let’s do what we can to be a better part of the driving community. It’s more fun.” And maybe to add a little fun, we hear the quack of a duck before cutting to black.


That’s Lee. She probably sped up to ride your bumper in the fast lane like that because ... well ... she wants to be able to read that sticker you have on your back window. Na. She’s just another … Duck on the road. 


That’s Alex. He’s probably texting and driving because ... well ... he’s letting his wife know he’s on his way to the hospital for the birth of their first child. Na. He’s just another … Duck on the road.


That’s David. He doesn’t mean to act like he owns the road and put everyone in danger like that. He probably just needs to get to a bathroom ... real bad. Na. He’s just another … Duck on the road.

Space filler...

That’s Jordan. She’s probably filling that safety space you created between you and the car in front of you because … well … she just can’t be late to work again ... and that two seconds really matters. Na. She’s just another … Duck on the road.

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