A 15-year-old boy was driving his mother and two young sisters (4 and 2 years old) on a road in northwest Iowa near Alta when the car was run into by a train at a railroad crossing. The sisters died, his mother is in the hospital in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and he is expected to be alright. This is a terrible tragedy and a tough situation to deal with over a lifetime. Of course our hearts go out for the entire family in this time of grief and especially this young man driving.
Train accidents are few and far between, but when they do happen seldom do the car passengers or pedestrians walk away unscathed. So how do you avoid being hit by a train? The most widely known rule is really pretty simple to remember. The rule of the road is to stop, look and listen. This is a lesson for us all. Like flying a plane with your co-pilot or performing surgery with a surgical team those involved must use active listening skills.
How do you actively listen? It is often described this way.
- Prepare mentally
- Pay attention
- Allow the speaker to communicate without any interruption, until the speaker concludes.
- Provide feedback
So how could we apply these skills to driving?
- Mental preparation: As you approach train tracks prepare to stop, look and listen.
- Paying Attention: As you arrive at the tracks, stop all distractions in the car and pay attention to whether or not there is an oncoming train.
- Stop the car.
- Look left and right.
- Listen for the sounds a train makes.
- Don’t allow people, your cell phone or music to distract you.
- Continue to pay attention to the tracks, looking both right and left, until you are well beyond the tracks.
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And, what is active listening and why is it so important?