‘Driver’s Yoga’ teaches motorists to become one with their ride, be better drivers

When you drive, does your mind wander? Instead of paying attention to the road, you start thinking about things that happened the previous day, your to-do list for today and the people in your life. That’s called distracted driving and operating a motor vehicle while your mind is not fully devoted to the task can lead to a traffic collision that can injure or kill. Meet Pete Peterson, 69, of Live Oak. He’s a 12-year veteran of law enforcement that included a stint with the Riverside Police Department and the California Highway Patrol in the 1960s and ‘70s. During his time behind the badge, he developed a concept called, “Driver’s Yoga,” initially for himself in 1965. Last July, he began sharing it with senior drivers locally and in the San Francisco Bay Area. While the word “yoga” means union, Driver’s Yoga is a mental exercise meant to unite a driver with his or her vehicle, Peterson said. Once that happens, the motorist becomes a safer driver, he said. Driver’s Yoga is a two-hour workshop that teaches motorists to use visualization, touch, story lining and breathing skills to help them focus on “paying attention to paying attention.” Because most traffic collisions are caused by someone not paying attention, Peterson pulls from his experience as a law officer to train his students to hone in on and stamp out the voices in their head that distract them from the road. “I went to crash in rural Riverside County,” said Peterson as he recalled a perfect example of distracted driving. “It was a four-way intersection, flat and clear where I got the call to respond to a non-injury car crash. I arrived to find two cars crumpled up and two gentlemen standing there. While I drove there, there wasn’t a single car in sight. I got there and said, ‘How in the world did you two run into each other?’ Both said they never saw the other.” Between the time Peterson was a cop and a driving educator, he was a vice president of sales and marketing for the Pacific Cookie Company. When he retired from there in 2002, he started his own consulting firm. Sharing his Driver’s Yoga concept with seniors came about from his travels with his wife, Cathy Cress, who is renown in the geriatric care management field. “Over the years I attended numerous conferences throughout the U.S. with her, and in discussions with her colleagues, the issue of senior independence and driving always came up when colleagues found out about my background,” he said. “The threat of the loss of independence from losing the driving privilege is the No.1 concern for seniors and is a major concern for adult children of an aging parent.” Over the years, he molded Driver’s Yoga into what it is today. “I enjoy teaching and feel that Driver’s Yoga is a prime solution for the huge problem of aging drivers and the dilemma faced by our countries aging demographics,” said Peterson. Former student Barbara Breit of Santa Cruz agrees. She attended Peterson’s workshop about 10 months ago and said it has been life-changing. “By focusing on what he taught us, it made me a more thoughtful, careful driver again,” said the woman who is “36-years-old for the second time.” Breit keeps her notes from the workshop in her car so she can easily remind herself about the key points to staying focused. “It is important to be focused on that one thing, as seniors don’t have the quickness we had when we were younger,” she said. “We have to be aware and say, ‘Hey, I’m driving now.’ It makes me safer for myself, as well as others.” While Peterson is able to teach Driver’s Yoga at the Elena Baskin Senior Center in Live Oak on Saturdays, he is available for on-site visits, as well. Also, he is developing a video presentation to market to firms that have an interest in driving, including insurance companies and businesses with a driving fleet. Taking Driver’s Yoga can earn students a discount on their automobile insurance rate. For information, visit www.driversyoga.com or call (831)332-4022.
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