Why Bother Giving Others the Benefit of the Doubt?

Why Bother Giving Others the Benefit of the Doubt?

Last September, on my way to work, I got a speeding ticket. I deserved it. I was going thirty miles an hour in a twenty-five mile an hour zone. It was not my first speeding ticket. I have a lead foot, but it had been quite some time since I’d been issued a ticket. The officer was polite and I admitted my wrong doing. Hoping for a warning, instead I got a ticket.  As soon as possible, I paid my fine from my checking account and not my husband’s and my joint account. I thought my wrong doing was behind me until our car insurance bill arrived in the mail. My husband noticed an increase in our rates and I shared with him about my speeding incident. Seeking a way to lower the insurance rates,  I signed up for a driver’s defensive course. Our insurance agent assured me it would help.

Putting Pride in my Back Pocket

Thankfully the six hour course was not a huge inconvenience. It was affordable and online. Though it totaled six hours in front of the screen, I could sit for a bit, turn it off and then resume it later. And I actually learned some things, mostly about myself as a driver.

Speeders are not patient people. I know this. But the curriculum did not shame those of us born with a lead foot, or show gory pictures of accidents involving drivers who incessantly speed. Instead, the section on “unsafe driving”  tapped into the core of human emotions. It is suggested that instead of thinking of other drivers as, (fill in this part of the sentence with your favorite expletive), drivers should give each other the benefit of the doubt. Though a very kind friend of mine uses this particular expression often, I’d never thought to apply it to other drivers. 

But with my record of speeding, the expense of a ticket and the hike in our insurance rates, I sat up, paid attention and took notes.

First of all, the narrator stressed to not take the actions of the other driver so personally. I don’t know why anyone would pull out in front of me and then drive under the speed limit and that is the point. I don’t know their story. Maybe they didn’t see me. Perhaps they didn’t mean to. It could be that the car they had to  borrow to get to work that day doesn’t have the same get up and go power they are used to. Whatever the case may be, I don’t have to react as though they are a malicious and evil individual. I don’t have to tailgate, honk my horn or pass on a dangerous curve. I can give them the benefit of the doubt. 

Secondly, though I like to be out in front and not at the end of a long line of cars, I am not all that important. I’m just like everyone else. We all have places to go, people to see and things to do. We are all drivers, on the same road, wanting to reach our destination on time and alive. 

Finally, giving others the benefit of the doubt allows me to be a relaxed driver. Instead of being on high alert to how I can get ahead of others and be first in line, I can be at ease. I might even enjoy the scenery, listen to good music or carry on a conversation with my passenger. A relaxed driver is actually a better driver because they are less aggressive and take fewer risks. 

After passing my driver’s defensive course with flying colors I told my husband that my goal was to never get another speeding ticket. A lofty goal, but a worthy one. 

Why bother giving others the benefit of the doubt? It might be worth it to give others the benefit of the doubt because it makes us more civil whether we are behind the wheel or not.

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