Friday, 24 May 2013 00:00

1957_Chevrolet_Bel_Air_Sport_Sedan_01[1]When I was 7 years old we came home one day from the grocery store and unloaded everything into the house while the car sate in the driveway. I stayed in the house with Mom and my sister while Dad put the car away. It was a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Sport sedan. Back then it was just a nice car; a couple more decades would pass before it became a classic.

So Dad backed the car into the garage and in the process tore off the back door that I had left open in my rush to get in the house. Clearly my fault - at least according to Dad.

Now in 1965, what do you think happened to children that left car doors open to be torn off by garages? Today it would draw attention from child services but back then I was just being taught a lesson.

But I digress. Whose fault was this really? Or is fault even worth discussing? Whose fault was it when Mom backed over my sister's bicycle with the Rambler?

Things just seemed to go wrong in our family when vehicles backed up. Or perhaps I'm a backing up jinx?


As a teenager, I cut the front end of my 1970 Dodge Super Bee into a power pole backing out of a service station and once even backed up in a left turn lane (don't ask) with Dad's pick up truck right into the grille of the compact car hiding behind the tailgate. I was real close when my buddy, Terry, backed his Toyota into a stump at Long Beach (he spent quite a while convincing us that it had been his wife's fault...somehow) and I was home when my former wife Rhonda backed her Acura out of the garage (or tried to) with the door still closed and another co-worker once connected with a tree while backing up in a company truck.

Is it just me or does this backing up stuff seem to be just a little more complicated than we all think?

In most vehicle fleets, backing incidents account for over 40% of all reportable vehicle incidents even though we drive in reverse only a fraction of the distances that we go forward. Backing incidents are a big deal. They absorb huge dollars in property damage and not infrequently result in serious injury.


Not surprisingly, backing incidents are almost always PREVENTABLE. In our courses, we highlight 7 fundamental ideas to prevent backing incidents. Maybe they will help you avoid some problems that I have seen (and on occasion caused).

1. Avoid Backing! - Let's face it, if you don't back up, you won't have a backing up incident. It's easier than you might think. Before you park your vehicle or get into any tight area, think about how you will get out. Can this be done without backing up? Most of us already scope out the spots, in the mall parking lots, that let us drive though an unoccupied spot to the next one, leaving us facing out for a quick getaway. That's thinking! Now apply that same logic at work. If you have to go somewhere to park or for other reasons, back up first, when you can see that the area is clear, and make your first move forward when you leave.


2. Circle Check - If you are moving your vehicle from a place where it has been parked or has not moved for a long enough that things may have changed, walk around and make sure that it's safe before you move it.

3. Look Back - In a pick up or utility vehicle, set up your mirrors properly and use them! If you can't see what's back there, stop and get out to look! In a passenger car, look out the centre of the rear window, over the back seat. (If you twist around and hike yourself up on your right butt cheek, it's easier). Looking out the driver window, over your left should doesn't tell you much and creates a huge blind spot everywhere except the narrow view down the driver's side.

4. Use a Guide - If someone else is around to help of if you have a passenger, have them get out and direct you.

5. Back Slowly - Your vehicle handles differently in reverse and can get difficult to control with too much speed. A walking pace is all the speed you will likely ever need.

6. Avoid Distractions- Don't try to multitask and use your cell phone or other hand-held device. If you are distracted by strong emotions or in a conversation, stop for a second before you back up and focus on your driving.

7. Practise - We back up so little that most of us never really get very good at it. So get out and practise backing up into parking spots in a deserted parking lot. Take a couple of traffic cones, if you have them, or small cardboard boxes and make up a little course for yourself. As you get better, your confidence will increase and you will soon be backing up safely, like a pro.


All of the backing incidents that I described above were off the job, and this is where I want to take extra care. Every year hundreds (yes hundreds) of young children are injured or killed when one of their parents, relatives or friends backs over them in the driveway at home. The 7 principles that you just read can save the life of a child. Go back now and read them again.

How can you apply them at home and at work?

Maybe as a kid, my family was pretty lucky after all. We only lost a bicycle or two - and that stupid Chevy door.


- Written by Spencer McDonald, President, Thinking Driver, Surrey, BC

Published in NEWS
Monday, 17 March 2014 00:00



Meeting Leader:

  • Prepare in advance to make this meeting effective. Click HERE for a link to instructions on how to best use this information.
  • Print and read over this entire agenda (or download a PDF version here).
  • Think about how you want to lead the meeting.
  • Is there anything that is specific to your company or operation that you can include to personalize the information?
  • Review the video for this session.
  • Save the link to the video in your favourite folder on your browser for easy access.
  • Open and then minimize the viewer just before the meeting to make the video introduction smooth.

Video #32 Template

  • NOT A SUBSCRIBER YET?  You will see a watermarked sample.  Get the ‘clean’ video for your meeting now by clicking here to get the order form and fax/email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .  We will send you a link to the non-watermarked video.


Opening Statement:


Your eyes are your first line of defense, but if your vision is obstructed by poor visibility through your windshield or mirrors, you are facing a serious handicap to defensive driving.

The Questions for this Meeting:

Q: What can cause problems with vision through the windshield or mirrors?

Answers can be:

  • Dirt on the outside of the windshield or on the mirror.
  • Snow, ice or frost on the outside (and/or inside) of the windshield or on the mirrors.
  • Condensation
  • Smudging from wiping with a dirty cloth or hands inside (this can cause real problems with glare when the sun is low on the horizon).
  • Cracks in the windshield or mirror (or broken pieces missing from a mirror).
  • Poorly adjusted mirrors.
  • Can you think of others?


If you can’t see properly, you will not be able to avoid problems, so when you do your walk around, circle check or pre-trip inspection, make sure to check the windshield and mirrors.

Tailgate Tips:

  1. If it’s cold, warm the vehicle to thaw the windshield and melt the ice or snow.
  2. Remove any excess snow with a brush or broom (keep one handy in the vehicle).
  3. Use a squeegee on the outside windows when fueling up to keep them clean.  While you are at it, clean your headlights and turn signal lenses.
  4. Periodically wash the inside of the windshield to remove dust, dirt and smudging.windshield-washer-liquid
  5. Keep your windshield washer reservoir full and either top it up regularly or keep a spare jug in the vehicle.  This is really important in winter when road spray from the melting snow can require frequent use.
  6. Clean and adjust your mirrors so that the blind spots are minimized.  (You should only see the side of your own vehicle in them if you tilt your head a bit to the side.)

If you can’t see the hazard, you will not be able to deal with it.  Give yourself the best chance to avoid the other guy by keeping your windshield and mirrors in great shape!

Introduce the Video:

Spencer McDonald discusses the importance of keeping optimum vision with a clean windshield and adjusted mirrors.

Practical Challenge:

Have everyone check and clean the windshield and mirrors of their vehicle NOW.  Provide paper towels and glass cleaner – now there is no excuse!

Download a PDF version, of this meeting planner, HERE!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014 00:00


Meeting Leader:

  • Prepare in advance to make this meeting effective.  Click HERE for a link to instructions on how to best use this information. circle_check_sticker_final%20copy[1]
  • Thinking Driver ‘Circle Check’ decals available to order for all your corporate vehicles (click here to order decals).  Introduce these decals at the Safety Meeting.
  • Print and read over this entire agenda (or download a PDF version here).
  • Think about how you want to lead the meeting.
  • Is there anything that is specific to your company or operation that you can include to personalize the information?
  • Review the video for this session.

Video Template

NOT A SUBSCRIBER YET?  You will see a watermarked sample.  Get the ‘clean’ video for your meeting now by visiting our online store.

Save the link to the video in your ‘Favourites’ folder on your browser for easy access.

Open and then minimize the viewer just before the meeting to make the video introduction smooth.


Opening Statement:


How often to you walk around your vehicle before moving it?  A circle check is mandatory before putting your vehicle into service at the beginning of the day and any time before backing up if you have been parked and this is the first motion you are making.

The Questions for this Meeting:

Q: Why is a walk around or circle check a good idea?  There are many reasons but how many can we identify?

Answers Include:

  • Walking around and checking vehicle condition can identify vehicle defects and safety concerns before you begin driving; in particular, the tire condition.
  • A circle check gives you the opportunity to check the operation of lights and signals.broken tail light
  • If you are backing up (or moving forward in a vehicle with restricted visibility to the front), a circle check will allow you to notice obstructions or hazards in your immediate area that may cause a conflict when you begin moving.

Q: What is your excuse for not doing this quick and important safety check?

Discuss answers.

Tailgate Tips:

Meeting Leader: Check company policy and/or handbook to ensure that you adhere to policy otherwise use the suggestions below.

When you do your circle check, before the start of your day or shift, us a system.  It could be:

  • Unlock and start the vehicle.
  • Turn on headlights and left turn signal.
  • Begin by walking clockwise around the vehicle and check:
    • Each tire as you pass it for damage, cuts or obvious problems including low pressure.
    • Headlights, taillights and turn signal operation.
    • Glass and mirror cleanliness and condition.
    • Look for damage on any part of the vehicle and report it if found BEFORE driving.
    • After arriving back at the driver’s door, click your headlights to high beam, change the turn signal to right signal and walk to the back and front to check the headlight high beams and right signal.
    • If you have backed in near a wall or fence, check your own brake lights by looking for the reflection when you press the pedal, otherwise get someone to check when you apply the brake.bicycle
  • And most important, if your vehicle is in the driveway at home or where there are children around, check for kids playing around the vehicle.  Every year in North America, over 200 children are killed when BACKED OVER in their own driveway by parents, relatives or neighbours.

Introduce the Video:

Spencer McDonald discusses the importance of walking around your vehicle to check for hazards before moving it.

Practical Challenge:

Make September CIRCLE CHECK MONTH and make a concerted effort to circle check.  Agree as a group to watch each other and remind those that forget.  Agree to not take offence if you get reminded.

Get the boss and office staff involved too!

Would it kill you to train your drivers?

It could kill them if you don't

Vehicle Incidents are the most probable way that your employee will get hurt on the job. Protect your investment today with driver training.



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